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THE OLD MOVIE MAVEN . . . The Website

CHARLIE CHAN, INC.

Home
CONTACT US
A TRIBUTE TO OUR MILITARY
A CAST OF CHARACTERS
A CALENDER OF MOVIES: What to Watch When
A CALENDAR OF MOVIES: Christmas - "The King of Kings" (1927)
A CHRISTMAS CAROL
ABBOTT & COSTELLO
AMERICAN CLASSIC MOVIES INTRODUCTIONS
ANIMALS AND THE MOVIES
ARCHITECTURE IN HOLLYWOOD
ARCHITECTURE IN HOLLYWOOD: Sets
ARCITECTURE: Ancient Egypt
ARCHITECTURE IN HOLLYWOOD: Bernheimer Residence
ARCHITECTURE IN HOLLYWOOD: The Ennis-Brown House
ARCHITECTURE IN HOLLYWOOD: Evan Thompson's Bottle House
ARCHITECTURE IN HOLLYWOOD: Greystone Manor
ARCHITECTURE IN HOLLYWOOD: The Hearst Castle
ARCHITECTURE IN HOLLYWOOD: The Hollywood Sign
ARCHITECTURE IN HOLLYWOOD: Homes of the Stars
ARCHITECTURE IN HOLLYWOOD: Jean Harlow
ARCHITECTURE IN HOLLYWOOD: Maps and Floor Plans
ARCHITECTURE IN HOLLYWOOD: Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch
ARCHITECTURE IN HOLLYWOOD: Pickfair
ARCHITECTURE IN HOLLYWOOD: The Rispin Mansion
ARCHITECTURE IN HOLLYWOOD: Royal Hawaiian Hotel
ARCHITECTURE IN HOLLYWOOD: Scotty's Castle
ARCHITECTURE IN HOLLYWOOD: Shelby House
ARCHITECTURE IN HOLLYWOOD: West Hollywood Historical Association
ARCHITECTURE IN HOLLYWOOD: Whimsy
ARCHIVES: VOLUME 1
ARCHIVES: VOLUME 2
ARCHIVES: VOLUME 3
ASSORTED SHORT CLIPS
"B" MOVIES
B - MOVIES: Serials
B - MOVIES: Series
B - MOVIES: Television Series
THE BARRYMORE FAMILY
BIOGRAPHIES
BLOOPERS
BOBBY "BORIS" PICKETT
BUSTER KEATON
CARLA LAEMMLE
CARTOONS
CHARLIE CHAN ANNEX
CHARLIE CHAN: Asian Actors in Hollywood
CHARLIE CHAN: Bloopers & Bonus Questions
CHARLIE CHAN: The Books and Their Movies!
CHARLIE CHAN: Chang Apana
CHARLIE CHAN: Charlie's Sons
CHARLIE CHAN: Chemicals
CHARLIE CHAN: Chronology
CHARLIE CHAN: Criminal?!?!*
CHARLIE CHAN: Extras
CHARLIE CHAN: Gilbert Martines and Chang Apana
CHARLIE CHAN: Hawaii Steve
CHARLIE CHAN: Maps
CHARLIE CHAN: Maven and Rush Glick's Interview in . . . "Monster Bash"!
CHARLIE CHAN: Movie Eras
CHARLIE CHAN: Movie Notes
CHARLIE CHAN: Murder Rate
CHARLIE CHAN: On The Town
CHARLIE CHAN: Puzzles and Quizzes
CHARLIE CHAN: Quiz and Puzzle Answers
CHARLIE CHAN: Radio Shows
CHARLIE CHAN: Spookies
CHARLIE CHAN: Transportation
CHARLIE CHAN: Weather
CHILDREN'S CORNER
CHILDREN'S CORNER: Holiday Crafts
CHILDREN'S CORNER: Boats and Planes and More
CHILDREN'S CORNER: Paper Dolls
CHILDREN'S CORNER: Fun Stuff to Read
CHILDREN'S CORNER: Boys' Town
CHILDREN'S CORNER: Colleen Moore's Castle
CHILDREN'S CORNER: Judy Bolton
CHILDREN'S CORNER: Nancy Drew
CHILDREN'S CORNER: Nancy Drew (For Older Fans!)
CHILDREN'S CORNER: Shirley Temple
COMEDIANS
COPPER CAPERS: FBI's and CIA's!
COSTUME DESIGNERS
DASHIELL HAMMETT
ETTA KIT
FASHIONS IN FILM
FILM NOIR
FOOD CENTRAL
FOREIGN FILMS
GENRES
GINGER ROGERS
HALLOWEEN FUN!
HALLOWEEN 2011: Movies to Watch
HALLOWEEN RECIPES
HAROLD LLOYD
HAUNTS: Hollywood and Elsewhere
HAUNTS: Winchester House
HISTORY: Hollywood and Elsewhere
HOLLYWOOD'S SCANDALS AND CRIMES
HOLLYWOOD'S . . . CRIME: Greystone Mansion Murder
HOLLYWOOD'S . . . Crime: Jean Harlow and Paul Bern's Muder?
HOLLYWOOD'S . . . CRIME: Tate/LaBianca Murders
HOLLYWOOD'S . . .CRIME: William Desmond Taylor Murder
HOLLYWOOD'S MARRY-GO-ROUNDS
HORROR - SCIENCE FICTION
HORROR - SCI FI: Annex
HORROR - SCI FI: The Atomic Submarine (1959)
HORROR - SCI FI: Bela Lugosi
HORROR - SCI FI: Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi
HORROR - SCI FI: Boris Karloff
HORROR - SCI FI: Dracula (1931)
HORROR - SCI FI: Frankenstein (1931)
HORROR - SCI FI: Gojira (1954) & Godzilla (1957)
HORROR - SCI FI: Invaders from Mars (1954)
HORROR - SCI FI: King Kong
HORROR - SCI FI: Lon Chaney
HORROR - SCI FI: Nifty Fifty's Creature Features
HORROR - SCI FI: Nightmare Theatre with Gorgon
HORROR - SCI FI: Ray Harryhausen
HORROR - SCI FI: Stephen King
HORROR - SCI FI: Universal Studios
HORROR - SCI FI: Universal Monster Genealogy
HORROR - SCI FI: Wes Davis
HORROR - SCI FI: The Witch's Dungeon
HOLLYWOOD SQUARES
HUSTON FAMILY
I LOVE LUCY
INTERVIEWS
JOHN WAYNE
JONATHAN GEFFNER
JOSEPHINE BAKER
KAY LINAKER
LEI MAKING
LOCATIONS
MDs - RNs - RNBs - OH MY!
M.D.S . . . - The Crime Doctor Series
MAGIC IN MOVIES
MAKEUP ARTISTS
MAKEUP ARTISTS: The Westmore Family
MARX BROTHERS
MARY ASTOR
MARY PICKFORD AND DOUGLAS FAIRBANKS
MAVEN'S LIBRARY
MAVEN'S WEBSITES TO CHECK OUT
MUSIC
MUSIC: Dancers
MUSIC: The Lyrics
MYSTERIES
MYSTERIES: A Warning For Those Who Give Away The Endings!
MYSTERIES: Alfred Hitchcock
MYSTERIES: The Bat
MYSTERIES: D. W. Griffith vs. Mary Roberts Rinehart
MYSTERIES: Gum Shoes
MYSTERIES: Old Dark Houses
MYSTERIES: S.S. Van Dine
MYSTERIES: S.S. Van Dine - The Kidnap Murder Case
ORSON WELLES
PERRY MASON
QUIZZES AND PUZZLES
QUIZ ANSWERS
QUOTES From Hollywood
QUOTES From Hollywood Movies
QUOTES From Dorothy Parker
QUOTES Dorothy Parkers' "The Waltz"
RADIO SHOWS: Vintage Series
RECIPES OF THE WEEK
RECIPES OF THE WEEK: More about the Recipes
RECIPES OF THE WEEK: A Rejuvenating Diet
REVIEWS
REVIEWS - Mini Mavens
RONALD REAGAN
RUDOLPH VALENTINO
SEX IN THE CINEMA
SHIRLEY TEMPLE
SILENT MOVIES
TAYLOR SCHULTZ: Hollywood Sculptor
TRANSPORTATION IN THE MOVIES: Aviation
VINCENT PRICE
VINCENT PRICE: Connoisseur
WHAT'S MY LINE?
THE WHISTLER
THE WIZARD OF OZ (1939)

Maven has long been a fan of Earl Derr
Biggers' Chinese detective Charlie Chan. 
 
She was part of a joint effort that created Charlie
Chan at College over at Rush Glick's website at http://charliechanfamily.tripod.com/id72.html. 
 
Maven decided to create her own version of a Chan story to pay homage to the Chan books, to Earl Derr Biggers himself and to all the people who made the movies 
of the 1930s and 1940s.
 
Not to mention finding "snackables" to munch on while reading at RECIPES OF THE WEEK (Cookbook Form)!
 
Enjoy!

CHARLIE CHAN, INC.

 

by Maven Lowell

theoldmoviemaven@yahoo.com

www.theoldmoviemaven.com

2010

 

 

 

NOTE:  Any real people and locations in this story are

used fictitiously; any other people, locations and

situations are creations of the author.

 

 
* * * * * * <> * * * * * *
 

Cast of Characters

 

Lee Chan (Keye Luke) # 1 Son – Anthropological/forensic artist . . . a pilot . . . has the training to aid victims or witnesses through reproducing what they saw to bring or giving a face to skulls to aid in identification and still teaches newbies in the company.

 

Jimmy Chan (Victor Sen Yung) # 2 Son – Chemist . . . big on being physically active . . . “leg man” trailing suspects and all until they got enough business and still teaches it to newbies in the company.

 

Tommy Chan (Benson Fong & Layne Tom, Jr.) # 3 Son – “Contact Man” . . . the traffic cop, keeping track and contact with who was out where doing what for the company.

 

Iris Chan (Marianne Quon) # 2 Daughter– Undercover, tailing and disguise expert trains newbies for the company.

 

Frances Chan (Frances Wong) # 3 Daughter – Manages the paper trail – in and out of the office – and the hiring and training of newbies.

 

Edwin Chan (Edwin Luke) # 4 Son – Head of the research department.

 

Charlie Chan, Jr. (Layne Tom, Jr.) # 5 Son – Chairman of the Board.

 

Gloria Chan, # 4 Daughter (Iris Wong) – Manages traffic into the office.

 

Willie Chan – (Layne Tom, Jr.) # 6 Son - Head Investigator.

 

Ling Chan, # 1 Daughter (Lotus Long)– Den Mother.

 

Wing Foo, # 1 Son-in-Law (Philip Ahn) – Married to Ling Chan.

 

Leng - # 1 Granchson and son of # 1 Daughter (Pronounced “Lung”) – Office trouble-shooter . . . because, as Grandpa Charlie says, he keeps shooting himself into trouble.

 

Randolph “Ranny” Hall – A Texas Tycoon whose beginnings are a bit . . . foggy.  He made a killing on Wall Street by listening to others while he shined their shoes and then using the information.  Who ever paid attention to a shoeshine boy?

Mary Ellen Hall– “Melly”-- His much younger wife.

Sally Hall – Their only child.

Mrs. Mertle – “Crepesy” – Sally’s Governess/Chaperone.

Ginger Lyon – His sister.

Landry Lyon – Ginger’s only son, a sponge when he can get away with it.

Robin Lyon – Ginger’s daughter who sponges, too, while she can.

Beecham – Their butler.

Jitsy Wong – The cook.

Jade Wong – Jitsy’s daughter, Charlie’s godchild and schoolmate of Sally Hall.

Jackson Harris – Randolph Hall’s ranch foreman.

Valintine Davis – An old friend of Lyon’s, made his money in oil and gas.

 

Francis Davis – Jack’s wife.

 

Norman Bigelow – An old-fashioned Cattleman.

 

Cynthia Bigelow – Norman Bigelow’s wife.

 

Kincaid Portman – Made his money in cattle AND oil and gas.

 

Fred Washington – Inherited money from his father’s investments.

 

Lew Carswell – Retired gas and oil engineer, made good investments.

 

Diedre Carswell – Lew Carswell’s wife.

 

Sheriff Albert Evans – The local law enforcement.


* * * * * * <> * * * * * *
 

Charlie Chan, Inc.
charliechanfamily.jpg
The VERY Early Years

A PROLOGUE

 

She stood on the street looking up at the sign over the door, fastening and unfastening the clasp of her purse.

            She took a deep breath and stepped to the front door.

            She pushed the door open and found herself in a reception area that was quietly decorated but punctuated with exuberant laughter from a girl behind the desk in front of her.

            A young woman who had been talking to two men behind the desk looked around and saw the visitor.

            “Good morning!”  She stood up, a mirror image in the girl’s straight blue-black hair cut in a page-boy style and a simply tailored suit.  “I’m Gloria Chan.”

            One of the young men smiled at the newcomer.

            “I’m Lee Chan.  What can we do for you?”

            “You are Chans?’

            Lee  laughed again.

            “That’s what Pop tells us!”

            “Yes,” the girl began to relax.  “You see . . . we are sort of related.”

            She took a deep breath.

            “My name is Jade Wong.  Charlie is sort of my . . . godfather.”

            Gloria grinned up at Lee.

            “Go get Pop!”  She grinned.  “Jade, come on into our conference room.  Pop calls it our ‘rumpus room’ because that’s the only room that can hold us all!”

            Gloria nodded to the other man who had remained behind the desk.  He saluted at Gloria and Jade and went ahead of them down a hall to a large room at the other end to hold the door for them.

            “I’m Tommy Chan,” he grinned.  “A Chan, a Chan; everywhere a Chan-Chan!”

            They went to the end of a long table near the windows as an old man came in another door with Lee, who closed it behind them.

            He smiled and bowed deeply at Jade.

            “Have waited long time for honor of humble self’s two families to finally meet.”

 

* * * * * *<>* * * * * *

 

Charlie Chan sat at the head of the table at the far end from the door.

He was framed by a picture window overlooking on the San Francisco Bay.

            He had seated Jade on his right, in the seat of honor, as Gloria brought a tea tray.  She had put it on the table next to Jade and then sat down to serve it.

            Lee and Tommy sat across from them.

            “Has been long time since humble self enjoyed company of Wong family,” Charlie smiled, folding his hands in front of himself on the table.  He glanced to his three children.  “Jade’s honorable father helped humble self years ago in most perplexing case.”

            Charlie leaned towards the girl who looked like she was still in high school.

            “How is honorable mother?”

            “She’s fine, Pops,” she said in a rush, “but . . . .”

            “But . . . ?”

            “But . . . ,” Jade smiled and looked around to Lee, Gloria and Tommy.

            She looked down at her purse and took a deep breath.

            “May speak in front of offspring who have proven trustworthiness in matters of confidentiality.”  Charlie smiled

            Gloria put a small plate of cookies in front of Jade as her brother got up to shut the door.

            “Honorable Mother prescribes sweets for times of trouble.”

            “Sounds like something my mother would say,” said Jade as she took a cookie and looked at it before turning to Charlie.

“Pops, you know the Halls, don’t you?”

Charlie looked around the table.

“Randolph Hall in puzzling case humble parent had years ago.”  He turned back to Jade.  “He helped solving case.”

“Yes, Pops,” Jade smiled for a moment. “He was kind enough to hire Mom as cook and take me on as a sort of paid companion to Sally, his daughter.”

She sat closer to Charlie.

“But there’s something going on at the Hall’s, I know there is.”

“How so?”

Jade waved her cookie as she looked around the table.

“That’s why I’m here!  I’m not even sure what’s going on, just that something is!”

Jade leaned toward Charlie with tears in her eyes.

“Pops, would you believe in shadows and signs?!” She stifled a sob as she put her had on Charlie’s arm. “Because they’re threatening my Mom!”

He put his left hand over hers as he nodded to Gloria who stood up and put a hand on Jade’s shoulder.

“Let me heat up your tea . . . and your cookie while I’m at it!”

Jade looked at her and smiled.

Lee got her attention as he handed her a handkerchief.

“I guess I sounded pretty melodramatic.” Jade laughed, “but it’s a lot of little things that just don’t add up.”

“Chinese are a psychic race,” Charlie said as they heard a knock on the door.

It opened and a girl leaned in.

“Ready for me yet, Pop?”

Charlie grinned at Jade.

“Humble office manager knows father better than self!” He looked at the girl at the door and motioned her in.  “May introduce number three daughter, Frances, who supervises office?”

Frances strode over to Jade with her left hand out while holding a stenographer’s pad and pencil in the other.

"Any time you get this many Chans together in one room this long then either one of us has goofed up or," she glanced at her father, "or somebody needs Pop's help."

Frances sat at a desk behind Charlie on his right and arranged herself to take dictation.

"Okay, Pop, we're a go."

Everybody shifted their gaze to Jade who sat staring, open-mouthed, at the new arrival.

Charlie patted the young hand on his arm to get her attention.

"Now to open case file--" He raised his hand as Jade's eyes grew bigger.  "All case files keep under lock and key in office.  Only members of Chan family have access."

He leaned forward and said, "Please proceed."

Jade absently took a bite of cookie as she sat back in her chair.  She looked at the wall above Lee's head . . . .

"I think I've always known things . . . things I never heard . . . things I couldn't . . . shouldn't have known. . . .

"Things I couldn't explain even to myself . . . .

She looked at Charlie as she passed her hand over her eyes.

"Like who would want my mother dead.”

* * * * * * <> * * * * * *

texaslonghornalsorans.jpg
CHAPTER ONE
 

EL RANCHO DEL TRINITY

 

            Lee, Tommy, Iris and Willie Chan accompanied Jade Wong on a plane from San Francisco to Texas.

            Lee asked Jade to fill in Willie on their mission.

            She leaned close to him and spoke low . . . .

 “There have been several ‘incidents’ involving my mother.”  Jade looked at him.  “The first time, Mother went out riding.  She’s not very tall so she had one of the stable boys saddle up her horse.  ‘Somehow’ several burrs got between the blanket and the horse.”

She shook her head.

“Mother had one of the stable boys saddle her horse.  She would have seen something if he’d done anything.  He’d had to leave to check on the horses in the pastures the horse so nobody missed her for a couple of hours.”

Jade stared out the window.

“Mother had been thrown almost immediately, of course, but she was lucky.  She was just sore all over for several days.  It didn’t help that it took us a couple of hours to find her.” She sipped her soda.

“Then there’s the question of how the  chopped-up oleander bark got into the chili powder.  Every Texas worth their salt almost inhales chili and it was a standard on chuck wagons when herding cattle to market.”

“Oleander,” Willie said.  “Wow.  How many ate it?”

Jade threw her hands out

“Most everybody!  Even Mother!  Fortunately, Mother is in charge of the kitchens and the dining rooms so she hasn’t had to handle the ‘chili-makings’ for years.”

“Dining rooms?” Willie asked.

“Our cowboys have their own dining hall and Mother works with the cook over there.  She orders groceries and makes menus for both.”

Jade leaned back in her seat.

“And then there are the shadow people that several of us have seen.  They’re spooking the help because nobody can find out who might be behind it . . . them.”

Willie looked at her sharply.

“You’ve got to be kidding.  SHADOW PEOPLE?!”

“Just wait.  You’ll see for yourself.”

           

            The plane landed at Fort Worth’s municipal airport on the north side of town.  It had been a smooth ride from San Francisco but the passengers were glad to get their “land legs” stretched.

            One group coming off the airplane was rather startling for the locals.  These newcomers were Chinese.  Attractive Chinese but still relatively rare in north central Texas in 1949.

            Except for one young lady in the group that the workers at Meacham Airport did know:  Jade Wong.

            Jade looked around and saw an older man with a seamed face wearing faded denim shirt and jeans, scuffed cowboy boots.

            She broke out a big smile as he neared her, taking off his hat.

            “Jackson!” Jade rushed over to meet him. “You’ve come to take us home?!”

            “Yes’m.”  He glanced down to his hat in his hands and looked at the others and nodded to them.

            “You all,” Jade turned, trying to smile, “this is Jackson Harris.  He’s Ranny’s—Randolph Hall’s—foreman, a valuable man to know.”

            She put a hand on his arm.

            “Jackson, these are friends of mine and Mr. Ranny.”  She waved her hand at each newcomer.  “This is Mr. Lee Chan and his family . . . Mr. Jimmy, Miss Iris and Mr. Willie.”

            Lee stepped forward to shake hands with the foreman.

            “Glad to meet you, Mr. Harris.  We’re delighted to be here.”

            “Yes,” said Willie, grimacing, “and to get the heck off that plane!”

            “Please, just call me Jackson,” he replied and put his hat back on.  “And don’t get too used to your land legs because we mostly use horseback at the ranch.”

            He turned to Jade, hesitantly.

            “If you want to take your guests to the car, I’ll bring their baggage over.”

            “We’ll help,” said Willie, “we’re used to hauling stuff.”

            “Yes,” Iris grinned, “they got it hauling themselves out of Pop’s hearing when they’d misbehaved!”

            “How are things at the ranch,” Jade asked

            Jackson looked up at the sky and glanced at Jade.

“We’d best get a move on.  We have a long ride and the sooner we get home the better.”

            “Yes,” Jade looked up and led them to the terminal, “maybe we’d better.”

            “Miz Jitsy sent a picnic basket along,” Jackson glanced at the others. “It’s in the back.  Miz Jitsy is Miz Jade’s mother.  She’s the cook at El Rancho del Trinity.”

            Jade chuckled.

            “Woe be it to anybody who tries to go without being fed at least every hour on the hour – if not sooner,” she said, walking to a parking lot as Willie and Jackson went to get the luggage.  “Don’t even bring the word ‘diet’ up around Mother.”

            She led them to a touring car and opened the back door and motioned Iris to get in first.

            “Wow,” Iris said as she slid across the back seat to the other side.  “Willie is going to love this.”

            Jade followed her into the car.

Lee sat nest to Jade as Jimmy looked in.

            He saw two seats facing each other between the back seat and the front seat.  A large covered basket sat in the between them.

            “FOOD!”

            “Number two son might wait to get in before attacking the kind offerings of hostess,” Lee commented.

            “Oh, sure.” Jimmy glanced at Jade as he climbed over to the seat in front of his sister.  He lifted up the lid of the very large basket.  “Hey, it even has wine!”

            “Don’t you think we should use this time to find out a few things before Jackson gets back with our luggage?”

            Jimmy glanced at Lee and then Jade.  He sat back with his hands folded in his lap.
            “Thank you, Jimmy.”  Jade turned to Lee.  “Something’s happened and it’s just not the weather, although our spring rains can get pretty bad.

            “How can rains this far into Texas be as bad as the hurricanes that hit Hawaii,” Jimmy asked, crossing his arms across his chest.

            “Jimmy, I guess you don’t know that the Fort Worth area is part of Tornado Alley,” she shivered.  “Tornadoes can do as much damage on the ground as hurricanes can do.”

            She looked off in the air for a moment.

            “Even if a storm doesn’t result in a tornado, it can rain so hard here that flash flooding alone can wreck havoc. And we get a lot of hail storms where the hail can get up to at least the size of quarters.” Jade glanced at Iris, “but there’s something else.  Jackson wouldn’t tell me how things are going at the ranch . . . so something has happened.”

            “How far is it to the ranch,” Iris asked.

            Jade sighed.

            “Two hours or more depending on which way we go.”

            “What’s it like living at a ranch,” Iris took Jade’s hand.  “I can hardly believe I’m in Texas much less in ranch country.”

            Jade’s eyes  stared off again.

            “It can be heaven on Earth.  ‘Wide open spaces’ isn’t just a phrase for us, it’s so much more than that.  It’s such a variety of wild life and flat land and hills and the people—”

            Jade described El Rancho del Trinity as a fair-sized cattle ranch that spread out over several counties, with a sprinkling of oil derricks here and there.  The ranch wound over hills and flat prairie land with a few man-made ponds that had their sources in the Trinity River.

There were the small towns here and there with a few houses, a grocery store, post office and chapel.  This is where some of the cowboys lived with their families to better cover the acreage of the ranch.

The big house was part of a complex of buildings around a central courtyard smack dab in the middle of El Rancho del Trinity.

            She looked down to pat Iris’ hand on her own.

            “ ‘Therein lies the rub.’ ” Jade looked at Lee.  “We are a pretty self-sufficient ranch pretty much producing what we need with our own dairy and machine shop so we don’t need to go to town much . . . .”

            “But . . .” Lee smiled at her.

            “But . . .” Jade continued, “if anything goes bad wrong . . . we’re stuck unless and until we can get help.”

            She stopped as they heard a noise that turned out to be Willie, Jackson and a young man pushing a luggage cart.

            They put the baggage in the trunk and Willie tipped the young man.

            He climbed into the back to sit in front of Lee as Jackson got into the driver’s seat and started the motor.

            Jade waited until they were on their way and leaned forward.

            “Jackson.”

            He looked at her in the rear-view mirror.

            “Yes’m?”

            “Spill it.”

            “Spill what?”

            “Jackson, these people are here all the way from California to help us.”  Jade raised her voice.  “So spill it!”

            Jackson Harris concentrated on maneuvering the car through traffic until they were clear of town.

            “Miz Jade . . . there was an accident in Mister Ranny’s work-out room . . . “

            Jane glanced at the others. 

“Did something happen to Mother again?”

“No m’am.”  Jackson gulped.  “I’m sorry to be the one to tell you but . . . it was Mr. Ranny this time.”

He looked up to the rear-view mirror and his eyes caught Jade’s eyes.

“Mr. Ranny . . . he got killed on one of the weight machines.”

* * * * * * <> * * * * * *

CHAPTER TWO
 

GETTING DOWN TO CASES

 

            “What do you mean Mr. Ranny got it in the weight room?”

            Willie leaned over the picnic basket for a fried chicken leg and whispered at Lee.

            “Getting it in the weight room must really hurt!”

            Jackson glanced back in the mirror.

            “It was his usual time for workin’ out so nobody thought anything about not seein’ him,”  the driver shook his head, “leastways not ‘til I needed him about Miz Melly’s Robin Hood being put to stud—”

            “Wait a minute,” Iris broke in, “you have somebody named Robin Hood at the ranch? . . . And you hire him out?”

            Jade glanced at Iris.

            “Robin Hood is Mrs. Hall’s stallion. Jackson,” Jade looked back at the driver.  “What about Mr. Ranny?”

            “I’m afraid that I was the one that found him. . . .”  His mouth formed a grim line.  “He was using that machine that you pull down the bar.  You know the one that’s on the block and tackle and the other end has all those weights?  That you adjust? . . .”

            “Please go on,” Lee said.

            “It smacked him in the face, made kind of a . . . well, a bloody mess . . . .” Jackson ran the back of his hand over his mouth.  “Sheriff Evans called us after the . . . after the doc done his exam . . . that Mr. Ranny must have been hit so hard in his face that it caused the back of his head to hit the floor that much harder.”

            Iris and Jade looked at each other in distress as Willie looked around for someplace to put his how unwanted chicken leg.

            Jimmy spoke up.

            “How could that happen?  Aren’t those weights made secure for the protection of the users?

            “Yessir, but Sheriff Evans says that it was tampered with so it’d break while bein’ used.  It snapped and . . . .”

            Jade looked around wildly.

            “I don’t understand. . . .  Who could have done it?”

            Iris held a cup as Lee poured wine into it.  She put it into Jade’s hand.

            “That’s what we’re here to find out,” said Lee.

            He looked at Jackson who was turning around to face Lee, a horrified look on Jackson's face.

            “Keep your eyes on the road!”

            Jackson glanced up as the car started veering to the right.  Grim-faced he stared at Jade in the rear-view mirror.

            “Miz Jade, what in the sam hill are we taking these people to the ranch for?”  He shook his head.  “Does your mama know what you’re doing?”

            “No,” she straightened up, “and she won’t unless you tell her.  You know that things have been happening. ”

            She sighed.

             “You remember Mr. Ranny lalking about that detective, Charlie Chan?”

            Jackson nodded.

            “Mr. Chan started his own detective agency in San Francisco with his family.”  Jade held Iris’ hand.  “Mr. Ranny sent me to see him about what was going on and maybe he could come out to see if he could help.

            “Pop had some business to attend to but he’ll be here as soon as he can,” Lee said.  “In the meantime, we’ll need you to help out—”

            Jackson looked up at the mirror again.

            “How?”

            “For starters, we are just visitors that Miss Jade is bringing back to meet an old friend of our family.”  He glanced at Iris.  “I don’t think that your boss realized that we may be visiting to help solve his murder.”

            Lee looked back at Jackson.

            “You can also help by telling us what you know about the other people at the ranch.”

 

* * * * * *<>* * * * * *

 

           El Rancho del Trinity was large enough to cover several counties west of Fort Worth.

            The geography of the area varied from hills to prairie but the ranch itself was on what amounted to a short mesa surrounded on two of its three sides by forks of the Trinity River.  The third side was usually on higher ground than the river beds but tended to flooding during periodic heavy rains.

            Mary Ellen Hall headed her horse over a wooden bridge that covered what was usually an almost dry branch of the Trinity River.

            Normally it was so dry that Jackson Hall called it his “algae farm” but today it was rising with all the rain they’d been having in the last few days and looked to get worse.

            But being raised on horseback had made her much stronger than her small childlike appearance suggested and kept her calm and in control of Norse, a palomino that looked as bestraggled as Mary Ellen. 

But horse and rider were of one mind . . . especially now with getting over the river and up a path that snaked up the side of the mesa and then home.

The rain pouring down obscured their view but horse and rider were of one mind and knew the trail from long habit so snaking up the side of the mesa was more  endurance test than usual. 

Mary Ellen and her horse reached the top of the plateau and headed in the direction of home, a place that had been sanctuary since Jackson had brought her here twenty years before.

He had built it for her at the time of their marriage and had hoped to fill it with family and friends.

Randolph  hadn’t planned to leave her with a house that felt more like a hotel to her now that he was gone and she was saddled with all the friends and family that he adored.

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            The Big House looked like something off of an antebellum plantation, which was no surprise as his parents had come from such an area south of Baton Rouge in Louisiana.

            Mary Ellen finally drew close enough to be able to see the house and its Corinthian columns that supported a balcony across the front.

            She headed to the right side of the house had a wing set slightly back from the front porch that had its own front balcony on the second floor.

             The side porch had its own set of columns to support a second balcony that had a second set of columns to cover the porte cochere for the driveway.  This entrance had been designed for easy access from horse-drawn carriages directly to the steps to the porch and side door.  Now a marble step at the bottom of the stairs made foot traffic easier.

            It also made getting from horse to porch to house easier, covered by the second floor balcony.

            A tall, heavyset man and a boy came through a door at the back of the porch to greet her.

            “Melly, you shouldn’t have gone out in this weather,” the older man said.

            “I know but with the break in the weather this afternoon . . . ,” she threw her rains to the boy.  “Chaco, would you please take Norse to the stable?”

            “Si, Senora Melly.”  The boy looked as small as the lady of the house but was just as spry as he vaulted onto the huge horse and cantered off.

            She turned back to the man and glanced behind him to the office wing off that side of the house.

            “Well, Kincaid, have you finished going over the ranch accounts in the office?”

            “Yes,” he said while taking her arm, “but you are going upstairs and getting cleaned up.”

            “And you think you’re the man to do it,” she returned as they went into a door to the left of the one Kincaid Portman had come out of.

            It lead into a square hall of the house proper and had the other door of the office to the right. 

They turned left to the circular staircase to the second floor where where Melly’s private rooms were located above the office.

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They were half-way up the stairs when they heard a rustle of skirts on the landing.

A girl carrying linen in her arms glanced down at them and waited.  She closely resembled the boy Chaco and seemed almost as young. 

Melly and Kincaid reached the landing and headed to the door on their right but stopped as the girl spoke.

“Senor Kincaid, Senor Davis wishes to speak to you.”  She waived a hand back down the stairs.  “He is in the library.”

He nodded at Melly and went down the stairs to the front of the house.

“Senora Melly, I have brought your fresh linen.”  Her eyes followed her mistress through the door.  “Did Chaco not tell you about Senor Davis?”

“Bella, I’m afraid I didn’t give him a chance.”  Mary Ellen Hall started peeling off her wet clothes as she walked through a sitting room with a door to a bathroom on the right.

They went into the next room where Bella closed the door, revealing a mirror on the other side.

Melly began stripping off her riding clothes that Bella picked up.

“Now what’s this about Mr.  Davis?”

“I think I heard him say something about Jade . . . “

Melly looked sharply at her as the older woman went through a door to the left of the one they just left.

“What about Jade?”  A tap turned on and water splashed almost in time with the rain outside.  “Just what do you know about that girl’s trip?”

Bella walked closer to the bathroom.

“I know nothing.”

“Nothing?”

“No, m’am.”

The tap turned off and silence for a moment.

Melly reached for a robe off a wall hook and threw it on.

She tied it closed and came back into the bedroom, smiling.

“You mean you all don’t talk about what goes on in this house.”

Melly stood there, still fair-looking in her thirties with light brown hair hiding the occasional grey hair and a still-slim body.  Her slightly wide-set dark blue eyes looked at her maid with the coal-black hair, black eyes and dusky skin.

Bella was barely over five feet tall, several inches shorter than Melly but kept eye contact.

“Senora Melly, we don’t talk about what’s none of our business,” she raised a hand up.  “you know Senor Jackson’s rule about that.”

The older woman walked over to a closet to start dressing.

“Than how come you all know what’s going on downstairs before the rest of us do?’

“What is it Jade says? ‘Chinese are a psychic race?’  Senora Melly, we just know things, we can’t help it since we’ve worked for you all for so long.”

She shrugged and walked to the first door.

“You need me for anything else, m’am?”

“No,” Melly turned.  “No . . . yes.  Please bring some sandwiches with the tea this afternoon.  I’ll be down shortly.”

“Si,” Bella nodded and went out.

The older woman finished dressing and walked to the king-sized bed.  She held onto one of the corner posts before she sat down and burst into tears.

 

* * * * * *<>* * * * * *

 

            Bella stopped at a closet door in the next room.  She opened it to put Melly’s black riding clothes into a basket of other clothes and carried it out the spiral staircase to the front hall.  Bella stopped halfway down to look out the stained glass window at rain that seemed to be coming down even harder.  She sighed and continued.

            She heard voices down the hall but could barely make out the voices over the thunderstorm outside.  Bella heard one voice become angrily loud in the game room next to the stair hall.

            “I still don’t understand why you had to send Jackson,” a thin voice complained from the room on the left.  “Nothing gets done around here when he’s gone and you send him to pick up who-knows-what that—”

            Bella heard that kind of what she called “sniffing” from only one person and had to stand still long enough to keep from laughing out loud.

            “I never did understand why my brother let that child run wild around this place.”

            A moment of silence gave Bella chance to knock at the door.

            “Yes?”

            She opened the door and found Randolph Hall’s sister, Ginger, and Valentine Davis staring at her, irritated at the interruption. They looked past the maid to the door as another intruder walked up behind the maid.

            “Have you heard anything from Jade?”

            Bella turned to look up at him and smiled at the man who always made her think of the actor John Wayne.  Kincaid was a favorite of everyone who worked at El Rancho del Trinity.

            He looked at Davis briefly and back to Bella.

            “No, sir, but seems Miz Melly ’spects them home soon.  I’m on my way to tell Miz Jitsy to fix up sandwiches and all.”

            “Do you go through this part of the house to get to the kitchen,” Ginger Lyon broke in, bitingly, “and with laundry yet?”

            She looked at Davis and rolled her eyes.

            The room was suddenly lit with bright light that was followed immediately by thunder hitting so close to the house that they all ducked down where they stood.

            Portman strode past the others to draw aside curtains to see the rain coming down even harder than it had been.

            “It’s coming from the southwest,” he said, turning. “I hope they get here soon.  Bella, go tell Jitsy to get those sandwiches ready.”

            “Yes, Senor Portman.”        

Ginger Lyon sniffed as the maid left the room.

“I really must complain to Melly about that girl.”  She sat down by the fireplace.  “None of the servants know their place in this house.”

“Randolph didn’t think so,” Kincaid said.

“Unfortunately, Randolph was too easy on those people.”

Kincaid turned to the other man in the room who was walking over to Ginger, offering her a cigarette from his case.  He took out his lighter for her.

“Unfortunately, Randolph was very explicit about those people in his will.” 

Portman hid as smile as he glanced at Davis’ hair, seeing grey roots beginning to show.

“Valentine, you know as well as I do that Randolph paid ‘those people’ the going rate but, unlike most people, got back in loyalty what he gave them in respect and concern.”

“It just doesn’t look good,” Ginger broke in.

“And you know all about what looks good, don’t you, Ginger?”

A tinkling laugh from the woman standing at the door caught their attention.

“You and Valentine know all about what looks good, don’t you?!

Cynthia Bigelow, a short and slightly overweight woman, strode over to put a hand on Kincaid’s arm as she stretched up to kiss him on his cheek.

She went over to sit across from Ginger in front of the fireplace and sat her knitting bag down as Kincaid went to one of the library shelves to get a bourbon bottle for drinks.

“Anybody want something to warm you all up or do you all want to wait for Melly’s tea tray?”

Ginger made a moue and shrugged her shoulders.

“I’m not going to wait for tea,” she sniffed.  “No telling how long it’ll take that girl to tell ‘Wongy’ and then wait that much longer for HER to get it ready and in here.”

Cynthia grinned at Kincaid.

“I’ll wait,” she glanced at Ginger and then back to Kincaid.  “I find Jitsy Wong can do no ‘wong’ when it comes to food—”

“You would,” Valentine muttered as he took the drink from Kincaid and gulped it down.

“Seems that our Saint Valentine needed his liquor more than you did, Ginger.”  Kincaid went back to the bourbon bottle.

The rain outside lessened for a moment as they heard the limousine pull up under the porte cochere, just outside the windows.

“Good,” Cynthia said.  “I was hoping that Jade and Jackson would get those detectives here safe and sound.”

“WHAT DETECTIVES?”  Valentine chocked on his bourbon and branchwater.

“Didn’t you know,” she said sweetly, leaning to him.

“Don’t you think that ‘accident’ that killed Randolph was a little too . . . convenient . . . for somebody?!”


* * * * * * <> * * * * * *
 
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CHAPTER THREE

 

OUT OF THE STORM

 

            They heard running feet in the second floor hall as they heard car doors open.  They turned in unison toward the hall to the stairs, beginning to hear voices in the stairwell at the back of the house.

            It seemed that everyone converged in the stair hall as another thunderclap hit too close by.  Outcries couldn’t mask the noise from the rainstorm.

            The door to the porch quickly opened as Jackson hustled in Jade Wong and the Chans.  He looked up to see Melly Hall coming down the stairs, followed by Sally Hall and her cousin Robin Lyon.

            “We made it, Miz Hall,” he said.  “We didn’t beat the storm but we’re here.”

            “Thank you, Randolph,” Melly tried to smile as she continued.  “You can leave the car in the driveway.  You can put it up later after you get something to eat.”

            “Thank you, m’am, but I’ll bring in their luggage first.”

            Lee Chan grinned at Jackson.

            “We want to get warm and dry first, our things can wait!”

            “Works for me,” Tommy added.

            Sally Hall step up to Iris Chan.

            “How good of you to come!  I’m Sally Hall.”  She turned to Jade.  “You all evidently got here safe and sound, if not dry.”

            “Yes.”  Jade smiled ruefully.

Sally linked arms with the other girls and guided them to the library, passing the group that had just come from the library.

            “I’m sure you all are ready for some sustenance so let’s get you all settled in the living room.”

            Ginger Lyon sniffed again.

            “Bella was going to bring things into the library,” her voiced dropped, “although heaven knows when that woman will have it ready.”

            Melly brushed past her, muttering back, “My dear sister-in-law, can’t you hold any of your appetites in check?  Even for a few minutes?”

            Melly smiled at Lee, Tommy and Willie as she called down the hall after their sister, Jade and Sally.  “Sally, to the library then!”

            “I’m Melly Hall.”  Her voice broke for a split second.  “Ranny—Randolph—was—my husband.”

            Lee walked up to her to take her hand.

            “We are so sorry to meet you under these circumstances.”  He glanced at Willie and Tommy.  “Pop has spoken highly of you and your home.”

            “Pop is sorry he couldn’t be here himself,” said Willie, “but a case he solved is coming up in court and he has to be there to testify.”

            Melly led them up the hall.

            “Randolph would have missed having your father visit,” she was silent for a moment but another clap of thunder covered the silence, “but he would have hated to having you all arrive in such foul weather . . . and Randolph . . . not being here to see Charlie.”

            She turned left into the library and turned to face her guests.

            “Please . . . be comfortable.”

            Iris, Lee, Tommy and Willie looked around the room, taking in a room clearly built for sprawling in relaxation, with or without the many books on the surrounding selves.

            They sat themselves on sofas flanking the open fire, Willie making sure that Jade had room next to him.

             There was a coffee table between the sofas and Melly sat down at the end away from the fireplace.  The others settled themselves around the room.

            Then an older version of Jade came in with a tray so heavy with food with Bella with more food on three tiered stands.

Both Lee and Tommy moved to help.

            Jitsy Wong grinned at them as she gracefully slipped by them to put it on the end of the coffee table in front of Melly.

            “You all are good boys,” Jitsy said in a soft voice that seemed to carry only to those she was talking to, “but I need my exercise!”

            Iris looked at her and smiled at the idea of anyone as slim and youthful in a traditional Chinese style dress needing exercise, as.

            “This is Jitsy Wong,” Melly spoke up, stopping for a moment to pick up a cup and saucer.  “Would you all like some tea . . . or . . . ?!”

            Kincaid stepped up with a whiskey bottle and some sherry.  “Or . . . ?!”

            Tommy and Willie grinned as they went to check out the liquor Kincaid held.

            Iris smiled at Melly.

            “Thank you, I’d love a cup.”

            As their hostess poured a cup, she glanced at Jitsy who was picking up plates as Bella took up a three-tiered sandwich stand so their guests could make their own choices

            “Randolph always said that El Rancho del Trinity couldn’t function without Jitsy,” Melly said with a brief smile as she handed Iris a cup and saucer.  “People are always amazed at how things get done here without anybody having to say anything to her.”

            Iris grinned at Jitsy and Bella as she took the cup and saucer with a napkin tucked underneath, trying to make a choice out of so many.

            “Pop always said that ‘Chinese are a Psychic race’!”

            Kincaid broke in, staring out into the hall.

            “Good because maybe you can explain what I just saw out in the hall.”

            Lee turned in that direction.

            “What did you see.”

            “A shadow."

            Tommy glanced out the door.

            “A shadow?  So?”

            “The shadows around here,” Kincaid said wryly, “don’t always with anybody OR anything attached."

           

 

* * * * * *<>* * * * * *

 

            A flash of light hit the room as if the nid-day sun had just been turned on inside the room, followed by an almost deafening clap of thunder.

            Everyone remained crouched in their places before realizing that they were now left in the dark.

            Lee carefully raised  his head and looked around.

            “Everybody okay?”

            He grinned at Iris.

            “Want to bet Pop would have a pip of a Confucius-saying right now?”

            “No bet,” she said, “sure thing!”

            They gingerly got up, glancing around what damage might have been wrought on life, limb and/or property.

            Iris looked at Melly Hall to make sure she was alright as Jade began to help Jitsy and Bella to pick up dropped glasses, assorted china and sandwiches by the light of a candle Ginger Lyon lighted.

            A loud click caused cringing again until they realized that it was Kincaid flicking his cigarette lighter.

            “Sorry about that.”  He held it up and turned to the hall door.  Kincaid quietly picked his way to the door.  “Excuse me.”

            Cynthia turned to him wildly.

            “Kincaid, don’t go out there!”

            Sally looked at her  while lighting candles on the mantel.

            “What do you want him to do?  Sit in your lap?”

            “Don’t be vulgar, dear,” Melly said.  “But do be careful, Kincaid.”

            Sally glanced at her mother, at Cynthia and then at the Chans.

            “I’m going with Kincaid.  Anybody want to join me?”

            “Sally, I don’t want you going out there.”  Melly’s voice was rising as Lee, Jimmy and Willie quickly took candles and followed Kincaid out the door.

            They sat glaring at each other as Iris leaned forward to put a hand on Sally’s arm.

            “You stay here,” she said in a low voice, “and the boys will go.”

            “Mrs. Hall—“

            “Yes.”  Melly turned abruptly.  She saw Iris draw back from her.  “I’m sorry.  What is it?”

            “Just what is this business about ‘shadows’ about?”

            Bella and Jitsy carefully took the remnants of the tea out of the room as Jade continued to tidy up.

            “I think you ought to talk to them,” Ginger muttered.  “Don’t they seem to always know what’s going on?”

            “That’s enough,” said Melly, “It goes back years.”

            Iris glanced out the windows and grinned.

            “So is there anyplace else that we have to be?!”

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS:

Credit should go to www.bellegrove.net for the pictures that Maven used in Chapter Two.  When Belle Grove was built in 1957 near White Castle, Louisiana, it was the largest plantation in the South.

Thumbs up to the go-to-guy couple about ranches . . . "Robin Hood" and his "Maid Marion"!

Maven would like to thank her aviation expert, “Captain Goodheart,” about air travel back in the day.

Thanks to "Aphrodite" for her input on workout rooms.  You're an angel!