A Grievous Act–Part 1
"Alma, there's a call for you on line two," Keith said.
When Alma picked up the line, Keith heard her scream and drop the phone. He raced over to find out what was wrong.
"Alma, what is it? Are you okay?"
"My mother . . . she's been in a car accident," she sobbed. "I've got to catch a plane to Houston. They've taken her to the hospital and she's in critical condition."
"Of course, Alma, leave right now. I'm so sorry about your mother," Keith said, putting his arm around her to comfort her.
Alma quickly gathered her belongings and left immediately. Two days later Alma called from Houston to tell Keith her mother had died. She would not be returning to work for the next five days. Keith told her not to worry and to take care of her personal business. Her five days' bereavement leave would cover her absence.
The following day Sam Sutton, the human resources manager, received a surprising telephone call.
"Sam Sutton speaking," he answered.
"Mr. Sutton, this here is Mortimer Hazelwood. You don't know me, sir, but I think you oughta know something about that connivin' Alma Florent workin' out there in your shipping department. You see, Alma done told her boss that her mama got killed. Truth is, her mama ain't dead. Alma's lied."
"I see, Mr. Hazelwood. And how do you know that?" Sam asked, wondering where this was leading.
"Cause she put me up to callin' her at the office and pretendin' like her mother got in a car wreck. Well, there weren't no wreck 'tall. She made the whole thing up so we could take off for 'Vegas.
"I'll tell you, you have to watch out for that Alma," Mortimer rattled on, "she's damn slick. Why, she even printed up prayer cards to prove to ya'll that there was a funeral. Only problem is, she decided to give me the heave-ho and took off with my cousin, Cecil, instead. Now that she's gone and taken up with Cecil, I'm hoppin' mad. So I figured I'd fix her good for leavin' me high and dry."
Sam was trying to digest what he was hearing and asked, "So you're saying that her mother is alive and there was never a car accident?"
"You got it!" Mortimer confirmed.
"And who can verify that for us?" Sam asked.
"Well, call her sister, Laura-Lynn. I can give you the number," Mortimer offered.
Sam took down all the details, pulled Alma's file, and gave Alma's boss a call. "Keith, I got a peculiar call today from Alma Florent's supposed boyfriend. He tells me Alma's mother's death is a hoax. Do you have any reason to believe this?"
"I can't believe that," Keith assured Sam. "When she found out her mother was in a car accident, that woman dissolved into tears and became as limp as a tomato plant during a Texas drought. She's called several times and could barely talk through her sobs. Why would someone be so cruel?" Keith questioned skeptically.
"I don't know," Sam said, "but I'm going to check it out. Let me have her department file, so I can see if there's anything else in there that might give me a clue."
Both files listed the closest relative as Alma's sister, Laura-Lynn Holbrook. The telephone number matched the one that Mortimer Hazelwood provided. Sam dialed the number.
"Hello," a man's voice answered.
"May I speak to Laura-Lynn Holbrook?" Sam asked.
"She isn't here right now, but this is her husband," Mr. Holbrook responded.
"Well, perhaps you can help, Mr. Holbrook. This is Sam Sutton. I'm the human resources manager where Alma Florent works. We understand her mother just died, and we would like to know where to send flowers," Sam fibbed.
"Dead? There's nothing wrong with Alma's mother. We just talked to her yesterday!" Holbrook told Sam.
"So she survived last week's car accident?" Sam asked.
"Car accident? What car accident? Where did you get that story?" Holbrook laughed.
"Alma told us that her mother died in a car accident," Sam informed him.
"Oh boy, she's up to her old tricks again," Holbrook sighed.
To find out just what tricks…click here
Excerpted from Sex, Laws, & Stereotypes, by N. Elizabeth Fried, Ph.D.©