The Pearl River Excursion (Part 8)

Once he left the room, the club members giggled and gushed to one another. 

“It’s really him!” 

“I can’t believe I’m in his house. I’ve got goosebumps.” 

“He looked right at me—did you see it?” 

“I want a photo with him.” 

“We should ask him to sing a song.” 

Harry hushed the group. “Calm down!” he whispered. “You’re going to make him suspicious. He has to think we’re karate students, remember? Try to act normally or you’ll blow the whole thing.” 

“He’s gone,” said Ishani, standing in the doorway to the kitchen. 

Everyone turned and looked at her. 

“What?” said Neil. 

“The old man isn’t here. He went out the back door.” 

The group raced to the kitchen. As Ishani had said, Aaron McAllister was gone. The back door was open. Vince and Jerry ran out into the yard; Neil, Wayne, Brendon and Lyle ran out the front. Harry stared. He blinked and shook his head. “Did he know?” he asked and looked at Ishani. 

“We probably just spooked him,” she said. 

“Maybe,” said Harry. He looked at the wall by the refrigerator. The phone handset dangled from its cord. “Or maybe,” he said, taking the phone, “someone warned him.” He looked at the handset, then returned it to its cradle. 

Ishani looked at him curiously. “You mean… Ronnie?” 

“You’re damn right I mean Ronnie. Who else? That do-gooder tracked down the old man and tipped him off. That dirty rat.” 

Brendon came back in the front door with the others. “He’s not on the street,” he said. 

Vince and Jerry returned up the back porch steps. 

“Well?” said Harry. 

Vince shook his head. “He’s gone.” 

“He can’t have gone far,” said Tony. “Let’s get after him.” 

You can go if you want,” said Jerry. “I’ll stay right here. It’s a swamp out there through those trees, and I’m not messing with alligators.” 

At the mention of alligators, the group’s heightened courage evaporated. Everyone looked at Harry. He took a deep breath, thought a moment then nodded. “Mr. McAllister will be back,” he said. “Stick to the plan. Take a few minutes, look around, grab a souvenir. And then we’ll head back to the bus. Let the old man think we’re gone.” 

Thirteen members of the Walnut Ridge Elvis Impersonators Club split up and searched Aaron McAllister’s house for keepsakes. In the bathroom, Vince pocketed Mr. McAllister’s toothbrush and comb. In the dining room, Gene took a framed photograph of a slightly younger Mr. McAllister crouching next to an old pug dog. Gene also took the urn containing the dog’s ashes. In the garage, Ishani collected a forty-three-piece socket set and a cordless drill. In the bedroom, Neil, wearing Mr. McAllister’s karate gi and black belt, stood in front of the mirror and admired his reflection. “Oh-ho, man! Check this out,” he said. “I’m wearing the king’s karate gear.” 

Phil, rummaging through the bedroom closet, stopped and turned to Neil. “Hey, have a look at this.” He held up a pair of slippers. 

Neil came over. “You could find something better. What about those boots?” 

“No,” said Phil. “Loot at the size.” 

Neil took one of the slippers and checked the shoe size. “Nine?” He looked at Phil, puzzled. “Elvis wore size eleven.” 

“I know,” said Phil. 

“It’s because he’s old,” said Ewan, who was in the corner of the room, rifling through Mr. McAllister’s sock drawer. 

“What?” said Neil. 

Ewan turned. “You know how sometimes when people are really old they get shorter? Well, their feet shrink too.” 

Neil’s eyes narrowed. “Is that true?” 

“My uncle lost a few inches near the end of his life,” said Phil. 

“Did his feet shrink?” asked Neil. 

Phil shook his head. “I don’t know. I never checked.” 

Neil looked at the slipper in his hand. “I guess it makes sense.” 

“I did think the old man was a little short to be Elvis,” said Phil. “I suppose he would have smaller feet too.” 

“It’s pretty common,” said Ewan. 

Neil shrugged and handed the slipper back to Phil. 

“Everybody!” Wayne shouted from another room. “You have to see this! Get in here now!” 

The Elvis impersonators followed the cry to a small room at the back of the house. After the group had crammed into the tiny space, Wayne stepped aside to reveal the source of his excitement. The group stood still, awestruck. 

“Is that what I think it is?” whispered Brendon. 


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