“I see you are still as reticent as ever,” Spencer Jessie said as he smiled at his old friend Joseph Paledeer.
Professor Hirschfield laughed. “He wasn’t like this on the plane. He was flirting with a stewardess the entire time.”
“I was merely trying to pass the time,” Joe said, waving his hands in his defense.
Jessie looked at the guys seated at the counter. “Would you like to meet my friends? They are a bit confused about who you are.”
The professor chuckled and his stomach jiggled. “They read the book, huh?”
“I believe so. One of the other members of the Procrastination Society wrote a review for the The New London Imperial Gazette. It was published a couple months ago, I believe.”
“Better late than never,” the professor said.
Jessie waved to his friends. Bob Lee Colwell, Dennis T. Hernandez and Tom Behren Jr stood and sauntered toward table six. Jessie made the introductions.
“I don’t understand,” Colwell said rubbing his jaw. “I thought the characters in the book were fictitious, but here you are.”
“Live and in-person,” the professor replied with a chuckle. “I admit I get a thrill when I introduce myself to people who’ve read the book. The look on their face is usually priceless.”
“So, is there really a lost gold mine in your canyon?” Hernandez asked.
Ol’ Joe set down his fork, finished chewing his biscuit then answered, “That’s a myth. There’s never been any gold in Sage Canyon.”
“What about the nugget you showed the guy with the Jeep?” Behren asked.
The professor tugged on his beard before replying, “I kind of wish that hadn’t been included in the book.”
“Aha!” Wendell Blasingame, the mayor of Shawnee Ferry, exclaimed pointing a finger at the professor. “You’re covering up. I think you know exactly where the gold is buried. Aren’t you worried someone will discover the canyon and dig up the gold?”
“The canyon’s not easy to locate.”
“There’s no gold. Never has been and never will be,” Ol’ Joe said with narrowed eyes drilling a hole through the professor.
“Spencer said you were doing a series of lectures at the university. Are they open to the public?” Colwell asked.
“They are free to anyone with an interest in archaeology. The lectures will be about my excavation of a site in eastern Montana.”
Ol’ Joe rolled his eyes. “I suggest you attend the lectures if you suffer from insomnia. They will cure you instantly.”
The professor folded his arms over his chest and asked, “Are you insinuating my lectures are boring?”
“I suppose they are more interesting than reading the phone book. Marginally more interesting,” Ol’ Joe said with a sly smile.
Spencer Jessie laughed. “I’m bringing Buttercup to tonight’s lecture. She is fascinated with old rocks and fossils.”
“Is that why she married you?” Marge asked eliciting laughter from everyone including Jessie. She refilled the coffee for Ol’ Joe and the professor.
“How’s the Center Of Hope doing?” the professor asked.
Jessie gritted his teeth and tilted his head back and forth before answering. “It’s a constant struggle to find funding, but I do what I can.”
“We took up a collection at our church a couple months ago,” Colwell said.
“And we appreciated it,” Jessie replied. “The people who come to the Center Of Hope struggle with addictions of all sorts. I try to bring Jesus to them.”
“Are you a preacher?” Hernandez asked. “I thought you were a medical doctor.”
“I’ve been a preacher for forty years. I do have a doctorate, but so does the professor.” Jessie shrugged. “Doesn’t mean much.”
The men returned to their seats at the counter allowing the Professor, Ol’ Joe and Jessie to talk.
“How was everything?” Marge asked thirty minutes later.
“Delicious,” Ol’ Joe answered. “Can I have the check, please?”
The professor’s jaw dropped, and the hand holding his cup of coffee froze halfway to his mouth.
Marge shook her head. “No check. It’s on the house.” She leaned closer and whispered, “Don’t let on, but the guys from the Society paid for it. Of course, they paid with a check dated twenty years ago.”
“We will be back. Those were the best biscuits and gravy I’ve had in fifty years,” Ol’ Joe said.
The men scooted out of the booth, put on their long, winter coats and headed for the door. The professor smiled at Ol’ Joe as he dropped an object into Spencer Jessie’s coat pocket.