The figure on the porch of the shack watched Flo’s appearance with surprise, slowly drawing a pistol from inside of his jacket. “Well, well, the songbird is still alive,” he said to himself, “but maybe not for long.”
As she walked toward him, Flo’s mind raced. “Oh, Mammy , where are you?”
Tucker watched Flo from his hidden position in the saw grass field. As she grew nearer the shack, her figure became blurry and a moment later he fell back, his eyes closed.
Rosie witnessed Flo’s surrender and Tucker’s collapse from her hiding place, and a look of determination crossed the girl’s freckled face. “OK,” she said, “looks like it’s up to me.”
As Flo approached the handsome black man on the porch, she pretended not to notice the revolver he now held almost out of view at his side.
“Reverend Honeysuckle,” she said in breathless surprise, trying hard not to show her fear. “What you doing here? I got lost in the swamp and the dog showed me the way.”
“Imagine that.” Reverend Honeysuckle smiled. “And what happened to May and the Captain?” Flo was caught off guard by the question, and fumbled for an answer.
“Don’t bother lying, girl,” the Reverend added, raising the revolver and motioning Flo into the shack. “The question is, where is the merchandise? If I’m out sixty thousand dollars, you’re a dead canary.”
As soon as Rosie saw Flo enter the cabin with her captor, she led the girls to Tucker’s hiding place. “Stay here and keep out of sight until I come back for you,” she instructed, leaving them hidden in the saw grass with Tucker looking on weakly.
“For she’s the daughter of Rosie O’Grady,” could be heard faintly as Rosie crawled through the saw grass humming, on all fours, her red head bobbing to the tune.
All Flo could do was stall for time, praying that Tucker could pull off a miracle. She was still stunned and confused by finding the Reverend Honeysuckle in the cabin. “How could a reverend of the church be mixed up in white slavery?” she kept asking herself.
“Sit down, girl, and keep your hands in your lap,” Honeysuckle ordered, a look of frustration on his face. “Where are the girls and what happened to May and the Captain? Tell me the truth or I’ll put a bullet hole between your eyes.”
Oh, Lord, Flo thought, here goes. “The captain is working on the boat. Something’s wrong with the engine. May sent me to tell you they’ll bring the girls before dark.”
A smile of relief crossed Honeysuckle’s face. “You better be telling me the truth,” he said, lighting a cigarette while watching Flo.
Rosie reached the cabin wall under cover of the saw grass and moved silently toward an open window. A man’s voice could be heard speaking to Flo as she crept nearer. She was just about to peer in the corner of the window when a hand from behind clamped down roughly over her mouth. An arm grasped her around the waist and she was quickly lifted away from the window without a sound.
* * *
“It’s a shame you got mixed up in this, songbird,” Honeysuckle taunted Flo. “You should have stuck to the choir and stayed alive, but it’s too late now.”
Flo heard the hammer of the revolver click and she did the only thing she could. She began singing “Amazing Grace.”
“That’s my Flotation,” Mammy’s voice shouted from the cabin porch, causing Honeysuckle to twirl toward the door.
Flo, shocked by the sound of Mammy’s voice, acted quickly, throwing herself full force at his back. The revolver in his hand went off as the two of them tumbled onto the porch.
“You ain’t nothin but the devil’s spawn,” Mammy cursed, bringing her sturdy black umbrella down on the reverend’s head. “Serves you right, you’s a snake in the grass. Hallelujah,” she whispered, putting her arms around Flo.
Two uniformed officers handcuffed the reverend. He kept protesting, “You can’t do this to me, I’m a man of God,” until Mammy threatened to bring her umbrella down on his head again.
Detective Wilson smiled at the old woman. “It’s all right, Mrs. Jones, we’ll take care of ‘the reverend’ from now on.” Then sensing Flo’s bewildered look, he explained. “Mrs. Jones reported you missing. At first there wasn’t much to go on, until she mentioned that she thought Reverend Honeysuckle drove the car that brought you home the first night. That rang a bell. We’ve been watching him for some months now, concerning a white slave ring in Mexico. We just needed the connection to Bucknell and the White Palace, then things fell into place. We knew Bucknell owned this island.”
Suddenly Flo pointed toward Tucker’s hiding place in the saw grass. In all of the confusion, she had forgotten about him.
Detective Wilson was ahead of her. “Your friend and the girls are already in the police motor launch. We need to get him to a hospital. He’s lost a lot of blood. Looks like he’s a big hero.”
“Looks like my flower sack underwear ain’t done too bad either.” Mammy smiled at Flo’s droopy drawers running towards the launch.
Copyright © 2012 by Ron Van Sweringen