Later, Brielle and the children visited Popeye.
“Well, hey there! Long time, no see! Come on in!” Popeye greeted excitedly as he let Brielle, and the three girls inside, “It’s not every day I get visitors.”
“Oh, well, maybe we need to come visit more often, Popeye,” Jane told him.
“Have a seat while I go into the kitchen. I’ll be right back,” Popeye said kindly.
Brielle sat down on Popeye’s sofa, holding Kennedy in her lap. Jane and Olivia sat on the loveseat across from their mother.
Minutes later, Popeye returned with a tray upon which sat a full pitcher of iced tea and five glasses filled with ice cubes. He sat the tray down on the coffee table and filled each glass with tea before handing it to each of his guests.
“Thanks, Popeye,” Olivia said before sipping her glass.
“This is really good tea. It’s tastes lemony,” Jane said after taking a drink.
“Oh, yes! I love lemon in my tea,” Brielle added before lifting her glass to Popeye and taking a sip. She then let Kennedy have a sip.
Popeye then sat in his recliner and sipped his glass before sitting it on the end table beside him.
“Lord, I’ve been so busy in the field, and I planned on stopping by your house sometime this week. But I’m glad you all come over because I’ve received some very distressing news that y’all need to know about. 4 people have come up missing. One of them is a sixteen-year-old autistic girl- a sophomore from Thomasville High School. She was last seen Thursday,” Popeye told them, “Her name was Nanda Abernathy.”
Jane suddenly looked up, setting her glass down hard on the coffee table.
“What???” she cried, “Oh my God, I knew that girl! She always sat alone at lunch! Me, Bruce, and the rest of my friends tried to get her to come sit with us and she wouldn’t do it! I could tell that the poor girl was scared to death! She didn’t talk to anybody! And Audrey Crabtree, Breanna Lindsay, and the rest of those creeps gave her such a hard time! I mean, tortured and tormented that poor girl! So, we tried to befriend her because we knew what it was like to be bullied by those arrogant assholes but she was too scared!”
Popeye nodded and Brielle spoke up.
“Jane, did you see this yourself?” she asked.
“Of course, I did, Mom! They’d beat her up all the time! They’d call her retarded, retard, F-tard, and other such horrific names! And I swear, we tried, Mom! We tried to get her to come hang with us! Bruce, Andy, and I would even take up for her when the bullies would attack her, but then, they started making sure we weren’t around and attacking her behind our backs!”
“Why isn’t any of this in the paper?” Brielle asked.
“The Thomasville Cryer didn’t even report a word of it.” Popeye said.
“I’m not surprised. You know that the Cryer is owned by Rita’s family. And if Rita or their associates are involved in something, they’re going to instruct their reporters to stay quiet about it.” Brielle responded.
“I’ve a good mind to call the FBI about this.” Popeye said in anger.
“The FBI are just as crooked,” Brielle reminded.
“I’m aware of that. But Shannon and the Bledsoe brothers went to the FBI and they got results. And that tells me that there are still a few good people that work in the FBI. Most of the crooks are the seventh-floor crowd- those in the top offices. But those with actual boots on the ground, many of them are good people, Brielle, and we have to go to them.” Popeye told her gently.
“I just don’t trust the FBI, Popeye.”