Southern Charm

Another day down, Porter was exhausted and ready to get back to his house on the Upper Lake. The night before with Caroline was beyond what he could have ever imagined. He couldn’t believe that he was falling for someone so quickly, but there was something strangely unique about her. Sure, he’d have his hands full – that much he knew – but she was his Hope Diamond – rare and priceless- and he wanted to possess and keep her for himself, always.

 As he neared the end of Main Street, where he would take the road up the hill toward his house, he began to think of the type of girl she was, and in doing so he realized she wasn’t the type to accept just any offer. So he decided he was going to take his time and think of something like her, something unique and beautiful, then he’d let her know how he felt. Then it would be up to her to decide where they next took things. If he had his way though, or any say in the matter whatsoever, he knew exactly where he was taking her…

Since he lived in The Lakes community where people could easily commute to and from the city within minutes, and were also afforded beautiful views, one of his favorite things to do in the evening was to retire to his office, stand in front of his floor-to-ceiling windows, and watch the sun set on the city and the lakes, simultaneously. Although houses, condos, and small businesses were perched all around the lower lake, as well as the larger lake up the hill, Porter was still able to enjoy peace and quiet due to the denseness that the trees and hills offered each home. It was a glorious little haven where people could enjoy the serenity of nature and reap the benefits of a picturesque town life as well.

 As the sun set, he played some of his favorite jazz music and drank his two knuckles of Scotch before sitting at his desk to finish up any unresolved cases that he had left over from the day. He preferred to work on his tougher cases from the comfort of his home office where he could analyze each situation separately and in a private environment. Out of all the cases he was made to deny this week, he was reminded just how greedy and dirty the company had become. He understood that every small business couldn’t always get funded, but the NOBH was so political that regular New Orleanians weren’t getting the startup that they required for their businesses. The locals understood New Orleans. It was a part of who they were and when they were able to showcase their individual flare and style… it was a big aspect of what made the city so rare and also drew in and kept tourism alive in the city. And in a sense, by denying some of these businesses; the NOBH was essentially killing New Orleans culture.

 Someone had to steer the company back on the right path and he was just the man for the job. For now, though, he had to lay low and play their games until certain facets were brought to light. So for now, he’d do as was instructed, and act in an advisory role on which accounts he thought were fundable. Running the entire company was not an option for Porter. He would be too far removed from his real passion- keeping the city breathing its music, arts and unmatched cuisines. And the best way that he could do that was from right where he was – running the New Orleans Small Business Funding Department from within the NOBH.

As he pulled his papers out to review, and taking a seat behind his desk, he recalled one case that he thought was worth approving- more than any that he’d come across in a long time- but at the end of the day, the NOBH denied it. It was then his job to report the answer to the requester, who in this situation was a man named, Terry Tucker. He was very passionate about the loan and his business – almost too passionate, Porter recalled, but then what was too much passion when it came to making your dreams come true? All he knew is that when he gave the man the unfortunate news, he reacted in a way that Porter never witnessed before. He truly felt bad for the man.

As he was moving on to his next loan applicant, the doorbell rang. Not expecting any visitors, he was slow to get up and answer the door. Then the knocking grew louder and beat harder. Then he heard the Fire Chiefs voice calling out to him. He got up and went to the door to see what his long-time friend wanted.

“Porter, I’m so glad you’re here”, the Fire Chief breathed heavily.

Porter put his hand on the man’s shoulder, urging him to come inside, and said, “Dan, come inside, whatever is going on, we’ll figure it out.”

Dan felt terrible having to come see his friend about the fire. He knew that Porter had nothing to do with it, but it was his job to inspect all evidence and interview all suspects.

“Did you hear about the fire in the Warehouse District last night? It was one of the NOBH buildings. If I’m not mistaken, one that was connected to your department.”

More than astounded, Porter stood staring and contemplating what he’d just heard. “No, Dan. Actually I had a short day. I guess I left too early before the rounds were made my way. Was anyone hurt?”

“No one was in the building. Look man, I have to tell you that at this time; you’re a suspect. A pair of your cufflinks were found on the premises.”

Porter laughed. That’s all he could do because the notion of him burning a building down was ridiculous. “And how do you know these cufflinks belong to me, Dan?”

“I know because I recognize them and they’ve got your initials on them. Porter, man, they’re yours. I haven’t reported it yet. Personally, I think you’re being set up, but if we don’t find the real bastard who did this, I’ll have no choice but to turn the evidence over to the police. There was also a couple of gas cans set up perfectly next to the cufflinks and I’m willing to bet if we swept for finger prints, we’d find yours.”

Porter nodded, “I understand.” He shook Dan’s hand, “Thanks for coming to me first.”

Starting to get nervous Porter was pacing his office trying to figure out what his first move should be. Dan pulled out a piece of paper with names scribbled all over it. “What’s that?”

Dan straightened it out as much as possible. It was folded up in his back pocket and he’d been sweating in the sweltering August humidity. “I’ve got a list of names of NOBH employees who were absent today. I thought I’d start there.”

Porter grabbed the list. “Let me see that”. The list was in order of floor then by department. He noticed that Caroline’s name was on the list. “You can take off Caroline Booty’s name. I can tell you it wasn’t her.”

“Really? Caroline and Julie Tucker were my number one suspects. They’re both from the same floor, never been absent, yet they’re both missing this morning and didn’t call in.”

“You mean Julie Matheson, not Julie Tucker.” A creeping feeling was making its way down Porter’s arms and legs.

“No, I meant Tucker. Matheson was Julie’s maiden name. I’m not sure how she got through Human Resources without not having to change it.”

Porter was definitely having fits at that moment. “What’s the address that you have on Julie? Is it in the city?”

“No, it’s weird she lives in a rural part of New Orleans. I’d never have guessed that about her, which is also why I want to question her.”

“We’ve got to go now, Dan. We just rejected a man named Terry Tucker for a business loan and if I’m right about this, then Julie Tucker is Terry Tucker’s wife and they’ve got my girlfriend.”

Dan didn’t acknowledge the girlfriend part. He just nodded and they both ran for the door.

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