The town of Bannville has a long and interesting past. I have told you about
, but there are many other days lost in time where many sordid things happened. Like how our town was founded. If you go by the official history, two brothers, Stephen and Thomas Banned, came down into the piney woods. They found a small community called Jeff’s Bluff and through cunning and entrepreneurship in the logging industry brought civilization to the land.
Another tale not on the books goes that the brothers got the land when Jeff had an unfortunate accident with an axe. And by accident I mean he fell on it. Repeatedly. Off the top of the bluff that bears his name. Could happen to anybody.
So with a rich and colorful history, the community likes to celebrate the events that lead to our shared culture. One way they do that is by quilt.
The “Showing of the Quilts” was once a big event here in Bannville. Each summer, men and women would come from all over Banned County and display their quilts in the library and sell them in the farmer’s market. The quilts were mosaics of various topics, some simple geometric shapes while others depicted great events from the previous year. In 1983, nine members of the Bannville Chapter of the Harrison Ford Fan Club got together to create nine quilts that when combined formed a giant three by three square that told the story of Star Wars. I am told it was quite moving.
Then in the 1990s interest in the quilts waned. Less and less quilts showed up every year until finally the Ladies Auxiliary called it quits. My mother, in her wisdom, has decided to attempt to lift the veil of murder that covers the library with a rejuvenation of the “Showing of the Quilts” and has put out a call to any and everyone to send in your designs. Anything and everything is welcome and all entries will be displayed on the varioussocialmediaplatforms the Banned Library lives on.
As I have stated before, Betty is a masterful quilter. For this reason, my mother has decided her collection will be the centerpiece of this year's quilt exhibit. And because Betty is sick and I need my mind taken off things, I get to put it up. Which means I also enlisted Darling to help me. Rolls downhill, folks.
“So Parker just let you go?” Darling asked me.
“Yep, said they wanted to get all the evidence they could so they could lock me away for good,” I said.
“That’s kinda harsh. Little vindictive, too, for cops,” he said.
“Well, let’s just say not everybody looks kindly on my family. The Banneds may have some respect left despite several bad apples that lost all our and a lot of the town’s money. Folks hold grudges. Here, help me with this.”
I leaned over the railing of the second floor, securing a quilt depicting rock legend Ted Nugent in swatches taken from concert t-shirts. Darling stood beside me, holding a ball of twine. He reached over and held onto the quilt as I tied it to the posts.
“What did y’all do?” he asked.
“How else do you lose a lot of people money? Gambling.”
We leaned back and let the quilt fall. The twine groaned on the wood but it held. I lifted another quilt and fitted it with clamps and began tying more twine to them. This one had a Warhol print of Marilyn Monroe made from screenprinted soup can labels. I made a note to ask Betty where her ideas came from.
“They took the town’s money to the racetrack or something?”
“Sort of. See, my great-grandfather’s brother, Ted, was involved in a scheme to build a brewery here. Banned Ale. He got most of the town to invest, including my great-grandfather Albert. Then, when it came time to open the doors, prohibition hit and my great-uncle disappeared. My family was nearly bankrupted giving the people back their money and paying for the brewery. We lost most of the land we owned giving it away to people. Still, some never got paid. Damn thing.”
When I draped the Warhol quilt over the railing, it caught on itself and twisted. I leaned over attempting to undo the mess.
“What happened to him?”
“Mystery. Never heard from again. Probably went down to New Orleans with the cash and got stabbed. That’s what my pop always said anyway.”
The quilt had caught on the railing underneath itself. I shifted and pulled harder to get some slack.
“So because of something your great-uncle did, you might go to jail.”
“Like I said, folks hold grudges. Plus, there was the fact that a pretty young lady with a child got murdered on my watch. Folks really don’t like that.”
“I guess so. Even if she was a whore.”
I righted myself and looked at the younger man. He was feeding out twine for the next quilt, one loop at a time.
“What was that?” I asked him.
“Look, I can’t say Ava and I got along very well, but that’s a pretty harsh thing to say, man.”
“Well, she was. You should have seen the way she went around talking to every guy in here. I walked in on her up close with the UPS guy one day and I know she went after the animal control dude. Then there’s all that with Seth and her kid. He loved her and she just used him. Then there’s you. She played you, had something with you, I know it. I don’t care, Mr. Banned, I’m glad she’s gone.”
I did not know what to say. Darling McCraw had been perfect in my book. A model employee, highly recommended from my old instructors. We got along, were interested in the same things, laughed at the same jokes. Hell, if he were a girl I might have asked him out. But this was... I did not know what to say.
“Let’s just finish this, Darling,” I said.
I leaned over and yanked the quilt a little too hard. My right foot, the one I had been balancing on, slipped. I went forward, grabbing a fistful of quilt on my way. I yelled, looking down at the wooden floor fifteen feet below me. Then I felt a hand on my back.
I looked up and Darling had hold of my belt. The old leather creaked in his hand. I reached over and grabbed the railing, pulling myself toward safety. I am not a small person by any stretch, but the lean man pulled me up.
“Thanks,” I said, catching my breath.
“No problem,” he said, “And Evan, I’m sorry about what I said. No matter what she did, she didn’t deserve that.”
I sat down with my back to the railing. I looked at him and for the first time saw what it looked like when Darling McCraw lied.
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