Private detective Richard Dick is back, fresh from his sleuthing success in the runaway international bestseller BITE THIS! In his latest case, Dick finds himself once again mixed up in wacky trouble including magical onions, a mouse who won't kiss him, a witch who loves to turn people into frogs and, of course, a gorgeous woman. Can Dick solve the case without getting hexed himself? This is #2 in the Richard Dick short story series.
It was nearing noon on a Saturday morning when I rolled up to the Days Inn in Vidalia, Georgia. The blast of hot, humid air that swabbed my face when I exited the sedan’s air-conditioned interior was expected. My reception wasn’t.
A middle-aged woman was seated on a bench near the motel’s entrance. She rose and approached with a pleasant smile as I stepped from the car.
“You must be the private detective, Mr. Dick. My name is Barbie Fritzweller.”
I was stunned. So, this was Barbie, the reason for my being here. She looked exactly like Aunt Bea…you know, from Mayberry. Even her voice sounded precisely the same. Honest!
“Yes Ma’am, I’m Richard Dick. What can I do for you?”
“Mr. Dick. I wonder if we could have a brief chat?”
“Well, I have an appointment to meet someone in a few minutes, Ma’am, but sure, what’s on your mind?”
“Mr. Dick, I understand that silly man, Montague Johnson, asked you to come down here to investigate me, him and that hussy girlfriend of his, Savannah. As you already know, they’ve been telling the most ridiculous tales about me, telling people I’m a witch, and all. Can you imagine? My, my, and some people are even beginning to believe them. Do I look like a witch to you? Of course not. You don’t believe I’m a witch, do you, Mr. Dick?”
“I don’t believe in witches at all, Ma’am. Say, wait a second…how did you know I was arriving here today?”
“Everyone in Vidalia knew you were coming.”
I doubted it, “Yeah? Why’s that?”
“Montague never kept a secret in his life. He and Savannah have the busiest tongues in town! Now, you can see for yourself that you are wasting your time here, so if I were you, Mr. Dick, I wouldn’t even bother to unpack. I would just turn my car around and head right back home to Chicago.”
“I can’t do that, Aunt Bea, um, I mean, Barbie, um, Ma’am. Like I said, I have a meeting in a few minutes.”
“With Montague Johnson, I suppose?”
I shrugged, noncommittally.
Barbie’s face froze, her eyes like granite, “You are making a foolish mistake Mr. Dick. Don’t say I didn’t warn you to leave. Remember, I warned you!”
* * *
I watched Barbie waddle to her car, and drive away. She was a peculiar old broad…there was something about her that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. This was my first witch caper, as crazy as that sounds. Still, a case was a case, and this one promised to pay well.
I retrieved my bag from the car’s trunk and walked through the entry door into the motel. Two steps later, something unseen grabbed my ankle, and I fell headlong into the lobby. I glanced around. There was nothing there, nothing at all that could have tripped me up.
The motel clerk greeted me with a thin smile as I regained my feet, “Welcome to Vidalia, sir. I see that you’ve met Barbie.”
* * *
The Barbie case actually began earlier in the week. I was seated at my desk; the view from my office window showcased a dull, gray Chicago sky silhouetting dull, gray buildings crowded with people wishing they were somewhere, anywhere else.
I concentrated on my work, “Let me see now, seven down, a four-letter word for”…my office door swung open, and sunlight flooded the room as SHE stood there.
She was a man-eater, the type of dame that could make a man sit up and howl at the moon. She wore a tight red blouse, and short, white skirt. I brushed the back of my hand across my mouth, my eyes devouring her golden hair and every delicious detail as she sashayed towards my desk.
I ignored the man who followed her across the floor until he spoke, “Mr. Dick, I’m Montague Johnson, and this is Savannah Periwinkle. I wonder if we could have a few minutes of your time?” He was a tall, robust fellow in his mid-thirties, his voice heavily laced with a Southern twang.
“Sure thing, Marmaduke. Have a seat, both of you, and please, call me Dick.”
He nudged a chair forward for Savannah, and then seated himself, “Thank you Mr.…um, that is, Dick, and it’s Montague Johnson, call me Monty. I realize you’re a busy man, so I’ll try to be brief. A witch has moved into our town and she’s creating all kinds of havoc. I want you to come along with us and deal with her.”
Oh no! Not again. It seemed as though I was running a boutique detective agency for nutcase clients. Oh well, “A witch? It seems unlikely.”
“That’s exactly what Savannah thinks too, Dick. I can’t bring her around to my way of thinking, but I’m certain of it. Barbie’s a witch.”
“Barbie? There’s a witch in your town named Barbie?”
“I can tell by your expression that you ain’t believin’ me Dick, but that’s exactly right. Barbie’s likely the meanest witch you’ll ever come across. She’s evil, don’t you see, meaner ’n a bull gator durin’ the rutting season.”
“A bull gator? That sounds, uh, pretty mean, all right.” He was a screwball for sure. I decided to humor him, if for no other reason than to feast my eyes upon Savannah for a while longer. “Why are you worried about a witch, if such a thing exists?”
“She’s onto me, Dick. Barbie knows I’ve discovered that she’s a witch. Savannah and I won’t be safe until she’s gone.”
“So, that’s it. Hmm. What town are you talking about, anyway?”
“Vidalia? Where the onions come from?”
“You bet! We grow the finest onions in the world around there. It’s the strangest thing, though. My onion crop’s down again this year. You want to order some?”
“You want to order some onions?”
“Um, no thanks.”
Monty scratched his head, “Oh well. You know, everyone’s crop has declined for several years in a row. We can’t figure it out. The onion business is what brought me here to Chicago.”
“You don’t say?” I turned to Savannah, and fell headlong into her enormous blue eyes.
“Ahem…so Savannah, you’re not convinced that this Barbie person is a witch?”
She had a delicious smile, and husky, mellow, Southern accent, “Dick, I’m afraid that’s so. You see, I’m sure there’re no such things as witches, but as far as Barbie is concerned, Montague is convinced of it.”