Lily turned with a grin and proceeded toward the swinging door to the kitchen when the front main phone rang causing her to alter course.
“Jo, can I get you juice or coffee?” JJ asked, as he stood.
“Just coffee for right now, thanks, honey.”
He went to the left side of the self-serve area and grabbed two mugs. Each had different flowers imprinted on the outside. He switched out one with a rose pattern he knew Jo would adore. He picked up the pot to pour and couldn’t help but overhear Lily from the desk outside the archway.
“Gus, why are you calling at this time of the morning? You know it’s Sunday breakfast, and I’m busy— What? What kind of threatening email? My sign doesn’t say Flower B&B plus bail bonds or bounty hunting. If you’re getting threats, call the police, for heaven’s sake!…No, don’t do that, Gus! We need to keep pressure on these newcomers, acting like we aren’t good enough to meet and greet. DO NOT cancel tomorrow’s podcast!”
JJ poured coffee in the cups and looked around at the other guests keeping to themselves on the side. Maybe they couldn’t hear her, he thought. He decided to pour juice for he and Jo as well as he kept listening to Lily’s side of the call.
“I understand the threat. Hell, I had one, too. Mine threatened my prominent female appendages in a vice. Didn’t happen ’cos I stood my ground and didn’t wimp out. Grow a pair and see this through...Good. Talk later.”
Lily turned and caught the eye of JJ as he frowned at her then picked up the beverages and returned to the table. She scurried through the arches and the swinging door to get the promised breakfast started.
“JJ, what’s up?” Jo asked.
JJ leaned in and softly replied, “I’m not sure, but something isn’t right.” He glanced at two men in ranch clothing at the far end of the dining room. He had an idea. Winking at Jo, he asked, “Sweetheart, how do you like the coffee? It’s so fresh.” He nodded and grinned.
“It’s almost as good as the coffee in Brazil. After we eat, can we go explore.”
“Yep. Let me ask these guys if they can provide some ideas.” He called over, “Hey, gentlemen. We’re visiting town on a small vacation. Do you know where we can rent a couple of horses and find some good trails?”
The one in the black hat looked up and over his friend’s shoulder. “No, señor. Nostrums no hablamos ingles.”
Jo brightened and turned around. “Buenos días, necesitamos alquilar unos caballos para dar la vuelta al campo."
The man shook his head, peeled off money, and placed it on the tabletop as he stood. He jerked his head toward his buddy and they filed out. As the man reached their table, he leaned down to JJ’s ear. “We don’t like strangers either, son.” He slapped JJ’s back as he left.
JJ started to rise when Lily intercepted him with plates in hand. “Young man, sit. They ain’t worth your time.”
“Lily, I didn’t mean to offend your guests. I simply asked if they knew about renting horses. I was trying to strike up a friendly conversation, but they stood and left as though I insulted them.”
Lily shook her head in disgust. “Ah, that would be the surly one. The other doesn’t speak at all. Never mind them. They keep to themselves and only snap at you when they want something. They come through every now and then. Their attitudes are as dependable as Texas heat in the summertime.” She laughed and added, “The container on the left is the Canadian Maple syrup I get from a regular guest. The one on the right is our local pecan syrup which has a touch of pecan whiskey. I wouldn’t recommend drowning your pancakes in it unless you want them to sit up and bark. If you forget which one is which, just sniff. You’ll know.”
JJ and Jo exchanged you-go-first looks. JJ relented after tasting the maple one. “I must try it. You said we wanted to experience this place, right?”
Jo smiled as he took off the top and inhaled. “Whoa! This smells like smooth liquor with a hint of pecans and sweetness. I’m passing on this to make certain I stay in the saddle.”
“Lily, come sit with us a while, when you get a break,” JJ said.
Lily returned with a plate of pancakes for them to share, then rushed over to pocket the money from the men’s table. No other guests were present so she pulled up an extra chair.
“Lily,” Jo said, “All of this is delicious. The bacon is perfectly crunchy.”
JJ nodded and cleared his throat. “Sorry to have overheard your conversation, but it sounded weird from this side.” JJ sampled a bit of the fluffy eggs. “You sounded angry. We’re here on holiday, but I’d hate to sit idly by when nice people are threatened. Did you talk to the police?”
Jo leaned in and patted Lily’s hand as if offering sympathy.
Lily spat with a sneer. “Police Chief Jager said take the complaint to the FBI ’cause they do all that computer stuff. He hates our podcast because we didn’t use him as our announcer. County Sheriff Blanton is usually too busy getting his boots shined to even take my call. Our law enforcement thinks we old ladies exaggerate and shouldn’t be using computers we don’t understand. They think high tech is Velcro and Teflon.”
“Are you saying the hack and slash yesterday wasn’t the first time?”
Lily wailed and dabbed at her eyes with a tissue she pulled from her apron. “Exactly. It started when our podcast led with the new buyers in town that won’t socialize with us locals. We’ve been doing podcasts for quite some time on different community events and other activities in nearby towns. We’re getting an audience of folks dialing in to hear it live or just showing up at the location. Right when we latched on to this topic after we researched, we started receiving anonymous emails saying drop the inquisition. ’Course we ignored that and set up this ten-day circuit to various shopkeepers to get community support for businesses and helping find out what’s going on out there. Then it got nasty. Guess they thought we thumbed our noses at them, which we did. Vulgar notes were found at each of our doorsteps one morning that were ugly, but the threat of physical violence is new to the last two broadcasts, and now Gus. The computer virus you fixed was the only one that could have shut down the show.”
Lily jumped up and went for the coffeepot. Jo and JJ enjoyed the food. JJ looked at her. “Oh, honey, I’m sorry. Here I’m talking shop, and your breakfast got cold.”
“It’s okay if you can help Lily and her friends, JJ.”
Lily refilled each of their cups.
“Lily, how about we pick this discussion up later? I promised Jo a fun day today. She’d really like to take a ride and explore.”
Smiling, Lily looked delighted. “Fear not. I’ve got friends that will rent you some sweet horses and point you to the right trails. Some areas around the reservoir aren’t fenced off. I’ll call Hank, while you finish. Thank you for listening, young man.”
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