Pearl Tremble was no stranger to the long-time residents of Barley, Vermont.
Matter of fact, she still lived in the same farmhouse where she had been born and raised. Pearl made her way around Barley in a shiny red pick-up truck, always observing the village speed limit of 25 miles per hour.
Each time Pearl backed out of her driveway onto the country road that was the only route to the village, she became more and more agitated. With all the rain and snow in the winter, the road continued to give way to deep and muddy ruts.
Pearl would protest at every Town Meeting, “That road up by my house is just a 'hodge-podge'”. Wanda Gibbs, who had been Pearl’s best friend since they were both in first grade, would nod her head in vigorous agreement.
Finally, at one particularly heated Town Meeting, Pearl was successful in winning her “case” and, at least, Hodge-Podge became the road’s unofficial name.
When the County finally got around to putting up road signs, Pearl's road went on the record as Hodge-Podge. After awhile, no one could recall the road’s original name.
On this Monday, Pearl had decided to drive down to the village country store and pick up some items for the week. Milk, butter, eggs.
Even though the young TV weatherman in Burlington called for only a fifty percent chance of rain, Pearl grabbed her umbrella from its customary place by the front door.
Pearl had arthritis and her right hip was telling her that the chance of rain was more likely one-hundred percent.
People often asked Pearl, “Why do you always carry an umbrella?”
“Just a habit,” Pearl would reply. “Just a habit”.
The truth was that Pearl wasn’t willing to let people know that a strong independent woman, as she considered herself, would put up with arthritis. So, she carried her umbrella, rain or shine, and on the days her hip became too much to tolerate, she used her umbrella as a cane.
Pearl had been solving crimes in Barley for more than thirty years. It was just that no one in the village knew that.
For instance there was the time that Preacher Vale and the new librarian were up on Moose Hill, praying perhaps, so that they never saw the London twins, Billy and Jimmy, attach a “Just married Sign” along with a dozen old tin cans to the rear end of the Preacher’s automobile.
Pearl, out driving around in her pick-up truck, had caught the two callow youths in the act. She had taken them down to the back of the Jail, and dumped them out, telling the frightened boys they had better go in and confess. Or else.
As Pearl backed out of the Jail driveway, she yelled, “And leave my name out of this.”
Pearl liked to think she was an old-fashioned sentinel, watching out for folks who were too busy doing other things to watch out for themselves.
There were plenty of other crimes Pearl had solved as well. She had discovered Edna Buffer’s plastic rooster that was always filled with the most beautiful yellow and deep burgundy pansies…like velvet, they were. Obviously, some no-good fool had made off with the rooster just for the heck of it, before dumping it down by the river that flowed right in back of Pearl’s house.
It took Pearl about two seconds to solve this crime, simply by studying the foot prints left on the muddy bank. It was evident the perpetrator was old Mr. Reams, who went around barefoot, Summer, Fall, Winter and Spring.
Pearl had called Mr. Reams’ daughter in St. Louis, Missouri, two or three times, asking her to make a trip to Barley. The daughter always fulfilled her duties, bringing a pair of new shoes with her and trying…once again…to persuade her father to wear them. And keep them on!
Mr. Reams’ daughter would tell him, “It’s this way, Dad, wear the shoes or I’m taking you back to live with Harry and me and the five kids.”
Of course, the old fellow would put on the shoes and agree to wear them forever. As soon as his daughter’s rented car pulled out of sight on the way to The Hartford Airport, Mr. Reams would rip off those binding shoes, wiggle his bare toes, and take off running as free and jubilant as any young child.
Pearl was involved in other crimes, too. There were the rubber frankfurters that someone slipped into the Rotary Food Trailer at The Village Fair. Of course, wouldn’t you know that the Chief of Police would be the first person to bite into one? He was ready to arrest the whole village of Barley but no one told who the culprit was… and no one ever stepped forward.
It wasn’t that Pearl Tremble necessarily solved each of the crimes but she sure knew who had committed them. If she had been asked, she would have given up the names quick as a wink.
It was when an abominable man, Mr. Boone was his name, came to Barley and tried to swindle Pearl and some of the other single ladies…and widow women out of their life savings.
Suspicious from the beginning, Pearl began an advanced search on her computer and almost before the shifty-eyed gent could open his brief case and make a pitch, Pearl called the Chief of Police, anonymously, of course, and Mr. Boone was in handcuffs, and on his way back to Nebraska. As it turned out, Mr. Boone was wanted in seven states for every type of fraud a person could imagine, including marrying a second and a third and a fourth wife, while forgetting all about the fact he had a first one.
This time, the Chief Of Police, Walter Cooper, had a big ceremony on the Village Green, at which time he named Pearl Tremble Deputy Chief of Police.
Someone yelled out, “Shouldn’t we have an election…or something?”
Chief Cooper answered, “Deputy Chief Tremble, will appear on a special ballot next week.” He paused for a second. “And I expect…” the Chief of Police pointed a finger here and there… “you, Preacher Vale, to lead the people to the polls.”
“Mighty glad to do so, Chief. Mighty glad.” Preacher Vale said.
That was the beginning of the Barley Crime Unit consisting of Chief of Police Walter Cooper, Deputy Chief of Police Pearl Tremble. Pearl convinced Chief Cooper to name Wanda Gibbs as Special Trainee. Or ST. Gibbs as she was soon called by everyone in Barley.
Wanda went right out and had uniforms made for herself and for Pearl. After all, hadn’t they been friends since first grade. “Oh, Pearl,” ST. Gibbs shrieked, “We’re just like Nancy Dre…..”
“Oh, stop that! We’re just two old biddies.”
But then Pearl whispered in Wanda’s ear, “I hear a city fella is in town wanting to buy the Historical Society Building.
“Oh, no!” Wanda popped her hand over her mouth.
Pearl said, “Got a reliable source. And there’s talk he wants to dig up Main Street. He says there’s a body buried under there.”
The Chief of Police nodded, “Yep, we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us. And we’d better get started right now.”
LOOK FOR MORE PEARL TREMBLE STORIES IN THE FUTURE!