Red grabbed a handful of apple chips that had remained untouched by the rest of us and settled back on the couch. After a brief go-round of banal questions from him such as âWhere you all from?â and âHow was the drive?â Abby, the shameless flirt, turned her green eyes on Red and batted her eyelashes. She just couldnât help herself, even if the man was attached to her friend.
âTell us about
, Red,â she said, taking a coquettish sip of her wine. âWhatâs it like being an apple farmer?â
Red shrugged. âI donât know anything else. I grew up on the farm. My dad handed it over to me just before he died. My great-grandfather started out with pears until the blight wiped out the crop. Thatâs when he turned to apples.â
âGoodness,â Abby said, âthat must have been awful.â
âA whole generation of growers was nearly ruined,â Honey said, reappearing from the kitchen. She carried a large tray that held some kind of dessertâapple based, no doubtâalong with a single âWise Appleâ beer. âThatâs why weâre so concerned about our future crops.â She set down the tray and handed the beer to Red. âIâve been telling my guests about the GMO apple situation.â
Honey sat down and began slicing up what lookedlike apple upside-down cake with some kind of glazed drizzle on top. It smelled heavenly.
Roman spoke up. âHoney seems to be quite worried about these modified apples, concerned they might have an impact on Apple Valleyâs industry. Whatâs your take on it, Red, if I may call you that?â
âRed, it is.â He took a slug of his beer before answering. âWell, we apple growers are concerned enough to band together and try to put a stop to this GMO nonsense. One of the farmers here, Adam Bramleyâheâs head of the American Apple Associationâhe organized a group called NoMoGMOs to fight them. None of us wants to lose our farms and our income, and weâre not gonna just do nothing and let that happen, right, Honey Bear?â
Red Cortland was proving to be as passionate and outspoken as his Honey Bear. Was the threat of these GMO apples really that viable?
I remembered the recent fires and asked Red, âI heard Honeyâs fire was arson. Any idea who might have done that?â
Honey and Red shared a look. Red set down his beer and shifted his weight on the couch. âWeâre looking into it,â he said mysteriously. âMeanwhile, Iâm gonna make sure nothing like this happens again. Honey lives here by herself, you know, and Iâm divorced, so weâre talking about me moving in with her, now that some crazy fire-starter is running around the county.â
âOh, Red, thereâs only been two fires, and Iâm fine. These people donât need to hear about all this.â
Red shook his head. âYouâre a brave woman, Honey Bear, but until we catch whoeverâs done this, I wonât rest.â With that he took the proffered plate of apple cake from her hands, picked up his fork, and went to work on it as if he were plowing a field.
â¢Â Â Â â¢Â Â Â â¢
We made small talk for the next half hourânice weather for fall, best places for various apple treats, what it takes to run a farmâavoiding the hot topic of GMO fruits. I was about to signal Jake that we retire when there came another knock on the door.
âWho could that be at this hour?â Honey asked, checking the clock that hung over the fireplace.
It was nine thirty, a little late for uninvited callers, and I hoped the night wouldnât drag on much longer with this new arrival. I was pooped and ready to hit the hay.
âI didnât invite anyone else,â she added.
Honey went to the door and opened it. In stepped a tall, gangly man wearing khaki slacks and a long-sleeved brown