Priscilla Good Henley, Episode 5 - By Howard Schneider

"You sure that's the right number?" Bobby asked, referring to numbers on a stone column next to a gate across a driveway leading to a stand of maples. A house was not visible from the street. 

Martha looked at her phone again. "I got the address from a business directory. Looks like where a rich person lives, don't it?" 

"How would I know? What we gonna do now?" 

"Turn around and park on the other side of the street. We'll keep a lookout for a while. See if somebody comes or goes." 

Bobby pulled the sedan to the curb half a block past the gate and turned off the engine. He'd stolen the mud-splattered Camry in Sacramento, exchanged the plates with the pickup he'd boosted in LA, then kept going north on Interstate 5. They'd got to Portland the night before and checked into a sleaze-bag motel on a stolen credit card. It took Martha half the night on her phone to locate Priscilla G. Henley's address, whose name she’d gotten from an article about The Good Life Cookie Company management change in the LA times. She’d been unable to find an address for Jackie. That’s when she thought of finding Jackie through her business partner. 

Martha learned about Jackie’s year in Oregon’s Coffee Creek Correctional Facility when ten years earlier a social worker contacted her as next of kin. She figured Jackie would pay generously to keep Martha from telling the world about her drug-selling days. She and Bobby just had to find Jackie and make a deal. All they wanted was a million cash, then they’d split, never to be seen again. 

Meanwhile, as Martha and Bobby sweltered in the stolen Camry and grew increasingly impatient, Priscilla and Jackie were in a Black Walnut-paneled conference room with their attorney finalizing details of Priscilla’s retirement from the company. “With your signatures, it’s done,” Canin Bonndorf said as he handed the form to Priscilla. After she signed it, she passed it to Jackie for her endorsement. “Congratulations, Miss Grant,” Bonndorf said when Jackie handed the form back to him. “The company is officially yours, lock, stock, and barrel, just as Mrs. Henley intended when we drafted the bylaws four years ago.” 

With tears welling up in her eyes, Jackie took Priscilla’s hand in hers and said, “Thank you, Priscilla. We created this wonderful enterprise together, and I promise I’ll take good care of it. I’ll never let anything make you regret the faith and trust you've placed in me.” 

Priscilla stood, still holding Jackie’s hand, and said, “Come on, Jackie, let’s go home. We’ve got some celebrating to do.” 

Thirty-five minutes later Jackie pulled her Nissan Leaf up to the gate, punched in a code, and drove through after it swung open. Still enthralled by their decision about the company, and happily anticipating their celebratory dinner, they hadn’t noticed the car parked down the block. 

“That’s her,” Martha blurted out. “That head of red hair is like her mother’s. I’d know her anywhere. She must be living with the old lady. That’s why I couldn’t find an address for her. Must have something on her. Why else would the woman turn over the whole damn company to a good-for-nothing junkie like Jackie?” 

“What do we do now?” Bobby asked. “Ain’t no way we gonna get past that gate to grab her. And what makes you think she’s still a doper?  Maybe she’s clean. You don’t know.” 

“Hell I don’t. Her mother, my sweet, deceased little sister, never got clean. Like mama-like-daughter, I don’t think Jackie could either. No doubt about it. She’s a user. Let’s go back to the motel. I gotta think about this—how to get her to share her scam with us. After all, I’m family, ain’t I?” 

“How are you going to keep busy now that you’re retired?” Jackie asked Goody after she poured another round of brandy. The celebratory coq-a-vin, followed by a delicious flan from Vertigo, one of Portland’s better French restaurants, was an excellent finish to their momentous day. The lights of downtown Portland were mesmerizing, and they both were more relaxed than they’d been in the months leading up to the change in corporate structure. 

“Now that I don’t have to think about advertising strategy for your cookies, and all the rest of it, I can concentrate on the Jobs for Homeless Women project I intend to start. Housing is the first priority on the list.” Goody took a sip of the brandy, then stood and walked over to the waist-high stone wall ringing the outer edge of the patio and surveyed the expanse below. She then turned back to her young companion. “I can’t tell you how proud I am of you, Jackie. How happy it makes me that you will run the company on your own. You’ve earned it, and I have complete trust in your ability to continue its success. But it’s been an exhausting day and now I need to go to bed.” 

Jackie walked Goody back into the house, hugged her and bid her goodnight. Then she went to her own suite, content knowing there was nothing standing in the way of a satisfying future, doing what she loved, gratified that she’d been able to salvage a respectable life from what otherwise would have been a disaster. That it would be clear sailing from this moment forward. 

As Goody and Jackie drifted into the well-earned sleep of contentment, Martha and Bobby were sprawled on the double bed in a ratty room of their ratty motel opening a second pint of Canadian and lighting up their third joint of Oregon prime pot. “It’s simple, Bobby boy. We grab her whenever she leaves that place where she’s staying. You can handle that, can’t you? Like carjacking, right?” 

“Yeah, I guess. Whatever you say. Then what? Want me to rough her up?” 

“No need for that. Not yet anyway. Once I tell her the score, she’ll do what we want.” 

“What if she don’t?” 

“We’ll do what it takes, that’s what. Don’t worry about it. You just gotta do what I say. Okay?” 

Bobby nodded, took a deep drag, then asked, “When we gonna do it?” 

“Tomorrow morning. No point in dragging it out. We’ll get the money and split. Just like that. Easy as can be.” 

“Then what?” he asked. 

“The good life, Bobby boy. That’s what. The good life.”

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