Chapter 20 ~ Joe Learn About the Mississippi River

Chapter 20

“Hannibal’s got those photo lights, so watch yourself, don’t go through on orange. I hate em. This country is turning into a police state where they is watching every move you make. The government draws the line with me if they put a camera in the men’s room,” said Sam. 

Sam pointed to a light fifty yards ahead.  After they passed through the intersection, Sam motioned with his right hand to take a right onto US Highway 72 heading from Hannibal, across the Mississippi River, to Quincy, Illinois. 

Sam said, “I’ll read Jody’s text to you when we cross the Mississippi. I ever tell you I worked on a barge on this great river?”

Joe nodded, not wanting to hear the story again. 

Sam continued, “The river divides the US in half. It’s about 2400 miles long. You ever been on a river boat? They still have them mostly for dinner and dancing cruises and gambling. Slow down, there’s the bridge.”

“I’m going the speed limit,” said Joe.

“It’s your life. Hurry up to get no where and miss all the fun in between. When you gonna take time to smell the roses? Look, there’s an eagle diving down to snag a fish. You see that?”

“I’m on the bridge, I gotta to watch the road.”

“Eagles are about the most beautiful bird there is in my opinion. You ever see an eagle in person. I’ll take your silence for a no. You coulda seen one, but you’re in rush to find your good for nothing, no count, philandering excuse for a father.”

Joe bit his tongue. He couldn’t figure any benefit in arguing with Sam. If his head was hard as cement, Sam’s head was pure steel. There was no entry point.

“Well, Joey, you missed it. You missed the most beautiful river in the nation. You ever eat catfish out of the Mississippi?” asked Sam.

“We crossed the bridge. You promised to read the text to me,” answered Joe.

“You got a left coming up, git in the left hand lane or we’re gonna go all the way to Springfield. You want to know who’s buried in Springfield?”

“No,” said Joe.

“I’ll tell you anyway. It happens to be the greatest President ever lived, Abraham Lincoln.”

Joe turned toward Sam, “How’d you know that?”

“You think I’m an old fool. That’s what you think. You think your smarter than me. The only thing you got on me is age and it ain’t doing you any good. If I wasn’t sent on a mission to help you, I’d ask to git out and I’d hitch a ride. You are more trouble than a bag full of rattlesnakes.”

Joe signaled his intention to bear to the left and take the exit toward Quincy. He said, “I’ll be quiet. If I insulted you, I apologize, it wasn’t intended.”

“I’ll accept your apology and you can buy me dinner tonight to make up for it. I like ribs, lots of them,” said Sam.

Sam unlatched his seatbelt and put his right hand into his pants’ pocket. The dashboard on Joe’s BMW beeped indicating an unbuckled passenger. Sam ignored the beeping. He wiggled his fingers into his pocket and pulled out Joe’s iPhone. He set the iPhone on his leg and fastened his seatbelt. The beeping stopped. Sam tapped in Joe’s password from memory. The screen opened to Jody’s text. Sam began reading.

Hi Joe – Here’s a quick and dirty summary of what I’ve found. Joe and the Flamingos last known appearance was on July 22nd twenty-five years ago on a Riverboat excursion out of Hannibal, Missouri. According to the online archives of the Hannibal Currier Post, Joe Ritchie was arrested for assaulting the Riverboat captain, a guy by the name of Miles Taylor. He’s still alive and running the riverboat out of Hannibal. According to the paper, Ritchie accused Taylor for shorting the Flamingos on their pay and assaulted Taylor. Ritchie was arrested. He didn’t have enough money for bail. He made a plea deal and pled guilty to simple assault and served three months in the county prison. There is no record of Joe and Flamingos after that date. 

Ritchie was released on good behavior after serving six weeks of his sentence. The last reference to Ritchie is 18 months later out of Boulder, Colorado. According to the online archives of the Boulder Daily Camera, Joe Ritchie was arrested and charged for aggravated assault. He used a baseball bat to attack a patron at the Flatop Fillup Bar. The patron, Larry Olsen was sitting with Gloria Fallon between her sets. According to testimony, Fallon and Ritchie were living together for a while. They broke up and Fallon testified that Ritchie said he’d kill anyone who dated her. He almost succeeded. He was sentenced to eight to ten years in prison. He was released with good behavior after serving six years. He still may be in the Boulder area. Max Stein, the drummer, lives at 1017 Harrison in Quincy. I think he lives with a daughter. Let me come and help you Joe. Please.

“Now I see where you git your temper. Why don’t you turn around and go back home to Marie? Now you got this Jody who wants to git her hooks into you. You’re chasing trouble and if you don’t watch out it’s gonna bit you right in your butt.”

“I’ll take my chances,” said Joe signaling to take the Marblehead exit onto a farm road leading to Quincy.

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