I’m Pink Lady Apple and my friend Deviled Yeggs suggested that I record each project that I set up in the hopes of reforming the people who continue to work for Lily the Pink Enterprises. But this is more of a mystery.
That morning we had a special breakfast. Since I had been married the Friday before, I decided that Lily the Pink Enterprises needed a fresh start on Monday. Gwen and I had run the cider house by ourselves for over twenty years.
We had Sandy Beech as our head of security, doubly in a little industrial engineering to smoothly manage the deliveries and shipments without making a lot of noise that would upset the neighbors. The back portions of the property were in a commercial district, but we were near some very expensive housing and from the start, we wanted no trouble with our neighbors. Before it was ever a cider house, Red Delicious had built sound barriers along the alley, to reduce the sound and prevent prying eyes into the illegal activities in the warehouse. But now that the warehouse was a legitimate business, the sight barriers were not necessary, but they helped in reducing the noise.
We had promoted Zuzka to a project management role. She was more into the design of the facility upgrade, but as we added more duties to what she was already doing, she seemed to handle it well. We had back-up plans in place in case she could not handle the construction management duties.
Then we had my husband, Scrambled – Wow! That’s the first time I wrote that in a report and it feels great!. Scrambled is taking the lead on expanding the business to add a bakery.
And I was hoping that at our first meeting that we could determine who our four shift supervisors would be. I cannot believe that for over twenty years we have had cider house operations and I ran the whole thing with help from Gwen. Then again, Baldwyn would never let me leave the complex and going to the cider house was the only way to leave my prison cell.
But when I arrived for our first breakfast in what had been my prison cell and was now, once again, the dining room, although my desk was in the corner of the room, Gwen had big news. She had a dream. She said that before the sun comes up, I needed to entertain a visitor, and we would have mutual benefits as a result. At that moment, the doorbell rang. Sandy jumped up to answer the door, and I slowly followed.
A tall slender man entered and introduced himself as Dalton but refused to say what company he worked for or give a last name. Sandy showed him to the living room, and I eventually got there, still not moving very fast, but I am moving.
Dalton smiled, “I am here to offer a business proposition, but before we get to that, can I ask a few questions?”
I replied, “Dalton, I would first like to know more about you and your company. You are not forthcoming. If it were not for a dream that my chief assistant, chef, and best friend had last night, I would have asked Sandy to show you the door without this interview. I trust you are not a reporter. I distrust them. There are some people within the police force that I trust with my life, but not all. And if you are with federal law enforcement, I have already been cleared of any charges, if any were to be made. Now, if this is business, it is a very strange way to get started.”
Dalton smiled, “Yes, but as our company has started to expand, we have had people say anything in order to get in on the ground floor. But we have reasons to ensure the integrity of our partners, contracts, and other business dealings. First off, I read the Sunday newspaper, and I am confused that you are not on a honeymoon. There were three big weddings this weekend.”
I chuckled, “Simple, Dalton, my husband and I are old enough to have grandchildren. Most newlyweds will spend too much money on a honeymoon and the marriage is often on the rocks due to money problems before they pay off the bill for the honeymoon. That may be a gross exaggeration, but my opinion. I have the money. There is no worry there. I want to eventually travel since I was unable to leave this facility for over twenty years, but right now, you interrupted a business meeting where we were to discuss promoting supervisors, so that I would not be running everything myself. Besides, we are expanding. We are turning the area of the swimming pool and the inner courtyard into a giant greenhouse. We are hoping to run almost exclusively on solar energy except for the wood fires that add a little smokiness to the cider, and even then, we are going to collect all exhausts and use a catalytic process to make ethanol – gasoline grade, not fed back into the cider. Why? I am not that much of an environmentalist, but if the government goes too far in that direction, I want to be ahead of the game rather than bankrupt due to it. Besides, by that time, it may start paying great dividends. It is simply too busy right now for a honeymoon.”
“And how was this double wedding?”
“We had standing room only. One of the local pastors, Rev. C.S.L. as he is called, worked with my biological son, Boaz, to seamlessly go through the ceremony. The reverend had a short charge for each of the couples to put God first in everything. Then Boaz teased that he had personal reasons for his biological parents to become part of his family, as the people who raised him were the monks of the monastery. His reminder was for both couples as Scrambled and I have grown children already and even though Maeve’s the same age as Boaz and Otto, she married by father-in-law. She wants to have children.”
Dalton looked puzzled, “But all weddings have mishaps. You know, those stories that will be told at family gatherings for decades. Let’s have the good stuff.”
I shook my head, “I was one of two brides. Maybe something happened that I did not notice, but everything went swimmingly. Besides, the youngest in the wedding party was Blaise Yeggs, ten-years-old. Usually the lovable mishaps come from the children. Things that I will always remember are not mistakes. The first from the mouth of Blaise, though. He is one of these brainiac kids that knows everything, and everything is black and white, no gray ever. He was to walk down the aisle with Sophia. his older sister, just having turned thirteen. She did not want to be part of the wedding party in that she would be compared to the grown-up ladies behind her in the procession. She has not developed a lot, and she did not want to look like the token child. We did some lifting and pushing and without doing anything false, we made it look like she was a couple of years older. She was then squeezed into the dress, uncomfortably, but it fit. Then as Blaise saw her and proffered an elbow to walk her down the aisle, he said, “Sister, be careful. Whatever you do, don’t sneeze or you will burst out of your dress.” Sophia was so elated that her obnoxious brother noticed, she floated down the aisle.”
We both laughed, “Then we had one lady who almost did not fit in her dress. Poached Yeggs was married to Callie this past December. She is a PhD ornithologist. She is in a rotation to spend a few months in the Everglades every few years. She would rather have waited a couple of years, but since they had their honeymoon during her latest trip this year, she did the math. She can have the baby, and the baby should be walking before she has her next trip, which means I must obtain some grandmother skills quickly. But although she was not showing yet, she was growing, ever so slightly, just enough for the dress to be tight. She survived the dancing. And thinking of dancing, Gwen could not dance at all a few months ago, and she did a lovely ballroom dance with GrandPa. She did not stumble once, but I could see her concentrate. I think she was counting the steps.”
Dalton asked, “Who caught the bouquet?
I corrected him. “There were two bouquets. If we were gamblers, everyone would have had their money on Zuzka for the first one. She is 6 feet, 7 inches tall and she is well coordinated. We have a company beach volleyball tournament next to the pool out back and she is in the finals every time, regardless of her partner. I think it was a set up. The bouquet bounced off her hands and fell into the lap of Jemima, the pastor’s daughter who has been dating Easter Yeggs, my nephew. They both went storm chasing last week and had to sleep in the same hotel room. They behaved themselves, but I think they were hoping to move up the wedding. They are now engaged. As she stared at the bouquet in her hands, Easter, who was born on Easter morning about sunrise in case you wondered, got on one knee and proposed. That’s why I think it was set up that way. Tough being upstaged at your own wedding by a couple of teenagers. Zuzka stood flat footed and snatched the second bouquet although the other ladies were jumping, tall and long arms.”
Dalton asked, “Is your new father-in-law going on a honeymoon?”
I shook my head, “Absolutely not. As Maeve said, ‘Who would ensure a homeless family found a home the first night in Tracy if she was not there?’ Thou and Maeve are essential workers at the mission downtown. It was like pulling teeth to get Maeve to the wedding shower and bachelorette party. The mission is her life. Those homeless people are her life. Now that she is living in the main building, she has extended her hours to 24/7 for counselling sessions. Maeve has a variety of local pastors who help so that she can have time off, but now, if someone cannot sleep at 2:00am, Maeve has set up a call system. She will respond within thirty minutes if talking over the phone is not adequate. Many of the residents at the mission have issues that need a lot of tender loving care, but if they break a rule, Thou is there to kick them out.”
“Thousand-year-old Yeggs, Maeve’s husband and my father-in-law. He calls himself the bouncer, but he is really a counselor himself. When someone breaks a substance rule, he arranges a place for them to stay while they dry out and then they can come back. It may not be a nice place, but it is safer than the streets.”
Dalton asked, “And I hear you are a big contributor. Tell me about that.”
I shook my head, “I would rather not. I make no secret about being the niece of Red Delicious Apple, the former head of the Rotten Apple Gang, which is the face of organized crime in the big city of Tracy. His criminal operation provided the money that built this house and what is now the cider house. I have paid him back for all that, but I still would not have it if people had not been harmed in the process. I am trying to do the best impersonation of Zacchaeus as I can. If I can pay back the person harmed, I try to do so fourfold. Otherwise, I give to charities. The mission was one of my first. The monastery is another. But as for the mission, they did not have adequate facilities for families. My apartment building behind the house was half empty, and we modified the rooms to handle families. We even have a bus service that takes them to and from the mission. We have vesper services for them here before the children go to bed. Prayer, Bible Study, and worship are very important at the mission, and I am giving that equal importance here.”
Dalton asked, “Do you have employees that object to openly talking about Christianity?”
I smiled, “No one is required to attend, but since almost all employees live and work here, it is almost unavoidable. I will be honest with you. Other than the new employees from the families that the mission sends us, our employees are almost all former prostitutes who worked here during the past twenty years. I taught the prostitutes how to make hard cider, but a member of the Rotten Apple Gang, Baldwyn Apple, coerced my cider employees into prostitution. I objected and was imprisoned in my own home. It took over twenty years until there was a murder near here, and I was being framed for it. I was also being poisoned, and we delayed the wedding, not to have it in June, but the poison robbed me of my ability to walk, so the delay was to ensure that I could walk down the aisle. But framing me for the murder meant that the police had to investigate. Luckily, the homicide detective, who is now my brother-in-law, felt that I was framed and got to the bottom of the mystery. In the bargain, I turned state’s evidence against more than a dozen of my cousins, most of whom are already in prison, sharing cells with my father and my uncle. The rest are still awaiting trial. The cases have been slow while we have some governmental issues in Tracy. My son, Boaz, is the mayor now and he is working on that. Since Boaz is mayor, he wanted his parents’ wedding to be the first where he officiated.”
Dalton raised the paper, “But organized crime is still in Tracy. That was the third wedding. Empire Apple married a distant cousin, Envy Apple.”
I closed my eyes, “They will make a lovely couple, and they do not have to change the embroidered towels. I was obviously not invited. Red Delicious has sent out an order from his prison cell that the Yeggs family is not to be harmed, but that does not mean we are on speaking terms. Empire is young, brash, and if he is like he was as a child – extremely intelligent and oh, so ruthless. We were hoping he would stay on the east coast and cause problems there, but I think Red Delicious had a lot to do with his return to the area. Uncle Delly holds great sway, even from behind bars, and even after my brother-in-law, Deviled Yeggs solved the mystery of which guards were on Uncle Delly’s payroll. But as for the third wedding of the weekend, I would not have put it past Empire to try to upstage the double wedding at the mission. His of course was at the Hoity Toity golf club. Too bad the city officials and the officers of the Hoity Toity club and their greenskeeper were at the mission at the time.”
Dalton asked, “Does that mean you won?”
“Empire will take it that way, but I was not competing. I was making a lifelong commitment to a man that I have loved for over twenty years, imprisoned right across the hall, unable to be with him or the son that was his and mine.”
The door to the dining room opened and Scrambled appeared with pastries, coffee and juice. “I hope you two are a bit hungry. This sweet lady of mine left without finishing breakfast.”
Dalton said, “I apologize, I should have realized.” We waved him off, but before we could get back to our interview, Zuzka and Otto came in from the den.
Zuzka, in her best English, said, “Oh, sorry, I did not know you were entertaining in here. This is our usual classroom.”
I said, “Dalton, may I introduce my middle child, my stepson, Otto, and his charm school teacher, Zuzka, who is also my project manager for the expansion. And you two can find a quiet corner in the dining room or den. I am sure no one is left in the dining room now.”
After they left, Dalton asked, “His name is not really Otto, is it?”
I winked, “You already know a lot, but of course, his name is Otto. His birth certificate says “Rotten Yeggs.” That is not just a play on words, but a reminder from Rotten’s biological mother that her husband loved me, and I was connected to the Rotten Apples. But Zuzka has come along as his charm school teacher and insisted that the ‘R’ and the ‘N’ are silent, so he is called Otto. If he is not called Rotten, maybe he will be nice. And yes, he attends church regularly now, and sits in with the employees and the families from the mission for the vespers each night. I think he’ll come around.”
Dalton asked, “So, Rotten, or Otto, is not your child?”
“Of course, he is. But he and Poached are not my biological children. Poached Yeggs is a homicide detective in Tracy, and he helps me here with my internet security until I can hire a new IT person. Would you like a tour of the facilities? My stamina is not up for the tour, but Gwen can show you around.” Without even calling her, Gwen was in the hall waiting. Having the meeting in the living room where Otto and Zuzka have their meetings, security has a habit of listening to the conversations. And that gave us a record of everything Dalton had to say.
When Gwen brought Dalton back to the living room, Dalton asked, “Gwen told me a lot, but how did you come to faith, while imprisoned in your own home?”
Gwen bowed and stepped away. I replied, “Gwen and I became like sisters. We read the Bible instead of watching television each night. We went cover to cover four times each year, sometimes more. But the Bible is hard to understand in a vacuum. We had no one to ask questions. But when you read it that often, the lessons that you learn start to take hold, and we both found ourselves trusting Jesus more each day. We did not know enough to say the salvation prayer. We just believed and we prayed for the understanding. And God answers your prayers.” The front door opened, and my new brother-in-law came in. “And thinking of an answer to prayers, Dalton, this is my brother-in-law, Detective Staff Sergeant Deviled Yeggs. He works homicide. If you kill someone, he will catch you. Have you killed anyone, Dalton?”
Dalton turned and offered a handshake, “Nice to meet you. I hear that Tracy has the best closure rate for homicide of any large city in the country. Are you the cause of that record?”
Deviled shook his hand and said, “We have a good team. My partner, Jim Wednesday is the best, and my nephew, Poached Yeggs, is starting to close cases himself.” Deviled turned to me, “Is this the guy who refuses to identify himself? Give me an hour, and I will know everything about him. I have Poached ready to do a deep dive into his online information.”
Dalton laughed, “No need. My questions are answered. I am ready to identify myself. My name is Dalton Hill. I am an executive with Sam Hill of Portland, Oregon.”
Deviled asked, “What in the Sam Hill are you selling?”
Dalton laughed, “Not the same Sam Hill, but we are playing off that expression. Sam is a common name. So is Hill. The Sam Hill Mercantile in Prescott, Arizona was well known. If you needed something, they had it. And often people would see a new contraption in the store, some modern convenience invented in the late 1800s and they would ask, “What in Sam Hill is this?”
Dalton continued, “Today, the internet is full of vulgar origins for the phrase, making people think you mean ‘hell’ when you are saying ‘Sam Hill.’ Sam Hill of Portland, Oregon wants to redirect the phrase back to its original meaning. I am a descendant of another Sam Hill, the Sam Hill who built the Columbia River Gorge Road and a few bridges. He named the town he founded Maryhill, WA after his wife, although she left him and returned to Minnesota. Her father retained business dealings with Sam – electrical power companies among the many businesses that he ran. It seemed Mary Hill did not like his driven personality. After Mary Hill was gone, Sam had a few mistresses, and I am a descendant of the last, married by convenience to his nephew so that her ancestors would be legitimate family members. Maryhill, WA was supposed to be a Quaker village, but not many Quakers were interested in moving there.”
Dalton leaned back in his chair. “Sam Hill department stores are starting to spring up all over the Great Northwest and we intend to expand eastward. We are a Christian organization. We might purchase products from any supplier unless there is a problem with the company for safety reasons or human rights reasons, but if we enter a partnership, we want to make sure that the companies that we partner with share our Christian views. So, here’s the deal. Washington state is known for its apple production. They have good wineries. If you want to keep your cider formula as a company secret, we can simply buy your cider for our stores, but we anticipate more sales than you could produce here, even with your expansion. Our company already has the orchards. If you build a satellite facility along the Columbia River gorge, we could partner in the distribution. Rather than Lily the Pink being a local company with a radius of a couple hundred miles, we are talking about the western half of the country.”
I was shocked. I was quite comfortable with our slow growth. Rapid expansion and a satellite site was a scary proposition. I was struggling in deciding who would be my shift managers so that I would finally have free time to be a wife and mother and now with Callie’s announcement, a grandmother. And since many of my workforce left after the police raid that freed me from my bondage, we were short staffed. Now I would have to figure out who was mature enough to be on their own to run the operations two time zones away. Twice as many supervisors as we had thought of promoting this morning.
I finally gained my voice. “Mr. Hill, you have given us something to ponder. As I have learned, making decisions in life requires enquiring God’s will in the process. If you are indeed a Christian-based company, you should understand that I cannot make a decision on the spot. The decision will require prayer, a lot of it.”
Dalton laughed, “I did not bring a contract with me for that very reason. I wanted to meet you face-to-face. The past history of this building and the rumors that Lily the Pink was a means to money launder the ill-gotten gains of organized crime had to be investigated and put to rest. We have already completed our investigation. Talking to you in person was the last step on our end. This is an open-ended offer. We can sell the apples from our orchards in our stores, but to have non-alcoholic cider and hard cider would be an added benefit. We can buy as much as your production will have available. But once we expand our stores into this area, we would love to look into your bakery. Those goodies this morning were delicious.”
After Dalton Hill made his exit, Deviled asked, “And what in the Sam Hill was that all about?”
“Watch your language, Dev!” I replied.
I believe that the mercantile was officially Sam’l Hill Mercantile, sold in 1966 after about ninety years of being a family-owned business.
As for the other Samuel Hill, he was a businessman who dabbled in a lot of things. His mansion in Seattle is called the Concrete Mansion. The expansive mansion on the hill overlooking Maryhill, WA is the home of Maryhill Museum of Art. In the museum, there are items of furniture from the Tsars of Russia, who had visited. In the basement is a large Rodin exhibit, including pieces that explain how the sculptor made such masterpieces as The Thinker. Down the road is a full-scale concrete replica of Stonehenge as a memorial to the soldiers lost from the Maryhill and Klickitat County area in World War I. He built much of the Columbia River Road using experimental techniques. The Peace Arch between Blaine, WA and Surrey, British Columbia was erected by Sam Hill on the 100th anniversary of peace between Canada and the USA.
And with Maeve being roughly the age of Rotten (Otto) and Boaz, it got me to thinking about a 1947 hit song by Lonzo and Oscar, I’m My Own GrandPa. The Ray Stevens’ version gives a chart in the video to help you keep track, but it really doesn’t help much. The strange thing is that the daughter of the widow that the singer married had lovely hair of red, probably to rhyme with “wed.” But that would make this girl, who married the father of the singer, his red-headed stepchild. But since this is a love story, we will let that part slide. Besides, Maeve is not the child of Pink Lady, just the age of her son, or there about.
And since the daughter of his wife was a red-headed stepchild, who was also his stepmother and all those other things, I would like to dedicate this story to a lovely woman who unfortunately has been a red-headed stepchild, but she is my natural-born niece, who I love and wish all the best.