Mae King, Out at The Kabb Inn
With Roger Rabbit on the move, the old Duck Inn & Cabins' new owner has grand plans
Roger Kabb acquired 51 percent ownership of the Duck Inn & Cabins in Lake Delford, Fla., in the summer of 1989 after constant cajoling from his live-in companion and self-described business advisor, Madelyn “Mae” King, who took ownership of the remaining 49 percent despite the transaction being fully funded by Roger.
The main building, former home to a family-style restaurant with a pair of private dining rooms, housed a bar room in the back. A dozen small kitchenette cabins stood quietly aloof in a semicircle at the rear of the property. The brick main structure and the wood cabins had sat vacant for almost seven years at the time Mae laid Roger’s money down.
Ted & Fred’s Handyman Services, an often-unreliable operation run by the unpredictable and unmotivated Myers brothers, had maintained the property surprisingly well after securing a loan to purchase it on the cheap at auction after the former owner died mysteriously and inexplicably from a brutal blend of toxins traced to his butter bowl. The brothers, dubbed Shifty and Shady, jumped at the opportunity to cash in on his misfortune with dreams of making a killing on the resale.
A saucy, stylish Florida State grad topped with strikingly scarlet tresses, Mae King, 36 at the time, was intelligent, shrewd, and manipulative in financial and personal affairs. She had discreetly engaged in off-and-on dalliances with both Ted and Fred Myers, mindless but muscular men of similar age, before Mae met the much older, semi-sophisticated, plain-featured, physically and financially stout Roger Kabb.
She soon became intrigued by his submissive acquiescence, his passive yet pleasant demeanor, his genuine sincerity, and his casual generosity. He was a goofy old guy who made her laugh frequently and with ease, an accomplishment other men were rarely able to achieve. Her wish was his command, and this go-along-to-get-along guy, flattered by her attentiveness, responded to her every suggestion, request, and demand with “Roger that.”
* * *
It was reported that Fred Myers got off-the-charts drunk on New Year’s Eve 1988 and drove his ’84 Dodge Daytona Turbo into an overpass bridge support on I-4 at 84 mph, just outside of Daytona Beach. A fiery explosion followed, and after the flames were extinguished, the charred car and driver were both declared deceased. The remains of the badly burned body were cremated and Fred’s ashes strewn unceremoniously into the sea by his sibling from the Daytona Beach pier. No services, no eulogy, no tears. When Mae heard about Fred’s demise, she told Ted that Fred would have appreciated the irony of totaling his Daytona after totaling himself in Daytona. “Too soon for jokes, Mae, too soon,” Ted said. “But I sure could use some consoling later tonight, if you can get away from Roger Rabbit.”
In the fall of 1988, Roger Kabb had delighted in finding and purchasing a 1984 VW alpine white Rabbit convertible after seeing a Disney movie not long before Fred’s demise. He thought buying the shiny object as a weekend getaway car was a hoot for a guy his age — “Just call me Roger Rabbit!” and many locals did — but Mae considered it a frivolous waste of money and scolded Roger, telling him that such folly was indefensible and beneath his dignity.
Later, during one of the occasional aforementioned dalliances Mae indulged in whenever Roger rubbed her the wrong way, she almost split a gut after hearing herself tell Ted that the funky car was beneath Roger at the very same moment she herself was beneath Ted. Unable to rise to the occasion, his mood shattered by her spontaneous fit of laughter, Ted was confused, clueless, and downright chagrined. Figurative imagery escaped him.
Though she had declined Ted’s invitation the night after Fred’s passing, Mae very much wanted to indulge him after enticing Roger into a promise to make a white knight offer for the former Duck Inn. She was using her leverage, as well as other attributes, to negotiate a favorable deal with Ted on Roger’s behalf and with Roger on Ted’s behalf.
The note on the property was coming due July 1, and Ted minus Fred had sunk deep into debt. With foreclosure inevitable, and nary an offer in sight, Ted was desperate to sell to avoid bankruptcy. Mae badly wanted to reopen the place with her own flair and taste, thus she cooed and wooed Ted into Roger-like submission. The two men disliked each other, so Mae kept them apart and, with the bank’s approval, put the deal together herself and stimulated both men to sign off on it on June 29, 1989, which they did, each in large part to gain further favor with the magnificent Madelyn King.
* * *
As they prepared the property for a new beginning, Roger and Mae briefly sparred over a new name. Roger wanted The Jolly Roger or Kabb Inn’s Kabins. Apparently, judging by Mae’s eyeball-rolling, head-shaking reaction, both were off the table before even getting on. She axed the former with, “It’s not a pirate’s life for me, matey,” but even while gently dismissing the latter as “a tad too cute,” she did like the play on his name and patted him on the belly, which was always a winning touch for her.
She proposed the simple and concise The Kabb Inn, thus subtly and subconsciously incorporating the presence of the rustic cabins into the name. Roger dutifully consented after a few minutes of brooding in the bathroom, his go-to place for working things out. Crestfallen after still another surrender to Mae, he abruptly left and hopped into his Rabbit. She quickly took charge of preparing the place for its grand opening on Labor Day weekend. The calendar turned as Mae worked hard on the place while Roger reluctantly retreated into the shadows.
Meanwhile, back at Ted’s double-wide in Tara ’n Tino’s MH Park, the amorous action was absent. The added favor with Mae that Ted expected to gain by accepting Roger’s low-ball offer was blowing in the wind, and with the property deal done, she had neither the time nor the inclination to return his calls, much less come calling. Ted was drinking heavily and, as a result, both he and his business continued to hurl. He often stared into the mirror and cursed his lot in life: “Freakin’ Roger Rabbit. Freakin’ Mae King. Freakin’ Kabb Inn.”
The grand opening was a huge success, and, as she envisioned, Ms. Mae quickly became the ever-present face of the establishment. She worked tirelessly and hired excellent staff while Roger aimlessly drove around town with his top down, honking his horn at people.
There were frequent vacancies at the small, nondescript cabins during the relentless Florida summers, but Mae marketed them well and always had them sold out for the entire winter season at very profitable rates. Screened porches, gas grills, clean linens, and proximity to the interstate sat just fine with the migrating snowbirds. The place turned a profit by the end of the second year.
Roger begrudgingly faded further into the background, a minimized and emasculated man, while Ted drank and cussed the neighbors, their kids, and their kittens, leading to aggressive admonishments from Tara and threats of eviction. He missed misbehaving with his brother, he felt cheated with the sale price and subsequent success of the Inn, and often thought that if Roger were out of the picture, he and Mae could somehow pair up again and change the name to The MaeTed (“Mated”) Manor.
Upon reaching the age of 70 on March 15, 1992, Roger Kabb decided to officially retire from doing nothing and pursue something he called his “Bucket List for a Free Man,” a jab at the controlling keeper of his inn. When he explained what that was, the guys in the back bar razzed him. Mae patted him on the head and said, “Really, hon, that stuff’s out of your comfort zone. You don’t know jack about chasing dreams. Stay home and write stories about those things you want to do because your porch light is fading, and your headlights are flickering. You’re incapable of traveling alone these days. I might give it a bit of a go in a few years.” She choked on those words. “You’ve been good to me, but I’m engaged to the Inn right now, so no can do.”
Long since tired of gathering dust on Mae’s self-centered shelf, Roger sold his share of The Kabb Inn to her at a conciliatory price with the one condition that the name remain unchanged. She had no problem with that because the locals all referred to it as Mae’s Place anyway. She gave him cashier’s checks for both the Inn and the house then casually but callously wished him well. Her last words to him were fatefully flippant, telling him to shoot her a postcard now and then. He uncharacteristically but defiantly flipped her off, bid her an overdue adieu, then loaded up the aging but still slick white Rabbit and hit the highway. Years passed, and no one in town heard a word from or about the Inn’s “bucket list guy.” The bartender named a triple-shot after him, the Roger That, at Mae’s tongue-in-cheek request. Sold well for several years.
Ted Myers probably should have buried the hatchet with Roger and rode shotgun with him on the latter’s way out of town, doubling as his wingman and bucket list buddy. After numerous unsuccessful and downright humiliating attempts to lure Mae back, he had abandoned the smoldering embers of his business, sold his double-wide, and left for parts unknown. Tara ’n Tino and the kids and kittens could now rest in peace while still above ground.
As for Mae, she was now sole owner of the Inn and the house, had beaucoup bucks, and a bountiful bosom that lasciviously lured in a wide array of upscale gentleman callers. They bought her this and that and some of those, but it was never enough. When she walked into the restaurant, or entered the bar, or strolled past the cabins, she did so to cheers of “Maaaae!” She felt like Norm in that TV show. Life had dealt her a great set of cards, and she played them well.
* * *
Nineteen ninety-eight had reached its grand finale, and 1999 was set to barge in with a bang. The Queen of the Inn had the festive final touches in place for a high-spirited New Year’s Eve celebration. All of the cabins were booked, the pantry and bar were well stocked, and Roger Thats would go for half-price all night. Still fabulous at 45, an energetic and enterprising Mae looked as good as ever and knew it. But somewhere in the back of her mind, an unsettling tingling had started to set in. What the hell was that? It was like there was an incoherent intrusion trying to find a nesting place. She shook it off, but it kept coming back as the 5:37 p.m. sunset drew near.
In town to pick up some noisemakers, she ran into a sullen Carrie Butler, who quickly reminded Mae that it was the 10th anniversary of the day her fiance, slacker Harry Howe, had vanished on the night of his bachelor party over in Daytona Beach. He was a longtime drifter from Jersey who was bounced from the Navy for undisclosed reasons and somehow ended up in Lake Delford. The lonely lady latched onto him, no questions asked. Carrie never got to marry Harry and never got over it. She was convinced he got cold feet or hooked up with a “hookah” or some such thing. Mae had forgotten the story, probably because it was overshadowed in the town by the fiery termination of Fred Myers on that same night.
Mae made the mistake of mentioning Fred’s death, and Carrie exploded in resounding rage. “Fred Myers? That rat turd pig went to the strip joint with the guys. Knowing what a lothario he was, he’s probably the one that talked my man into running for the hills. Fred effin’ Myers. Glad he died. Hope he suffered. Have a nice New Year’s.” Mae, now second-guessing her own dalliances with a rat turd pig, was stunned Carrie knew what a lothario was.
With her fashionably tousled, blue-streaked hair extensions (to match her stilettos) swaggering seductively in the light December wind, Mae headed home to put on the daring red dress that was destined to turn heads and tempt fate.
* * *
Hours later, all was going well at The Kabb Inn. The food was great, the bar patrons were boisterous but well-behaved, and Mae had red velvet whoopie pies delivered to the guests in the cabins. Exuding euphoria and ecstasy, Mae commanded the room while the big ball on the five television screens was starting to drop. “Eight! Seven!” As the countdown to midnight got louder, that tingling in the back of Mae’s mind not only returned but did so in the form of a thundering flash of lightning. The last word she heard was “Fore!”
The sound of three gunshots abruptly halted the countdown, and chaos quickly ensued. Two figures were seen brazenly running out a side door into the parking lot. Both had walked in wearing Mardi Gras-style masks, which were part of the New Year’s Eve tradition at The Kabb; thus, no one could have recognized or described them even if the partiers hadn’t been too busy ducking for cover at the former Duck Inn to get a good look. Tara and a few manly men stepped up and ran outside in blind pursuit, but all they saw were red taillights fading into the distance. The pursuers warily piled into a couple of pickups and raced toward the interstate, but alas, the perps and the taillights had merged into the murky night.
Back at The Kabb Inn, shrieks and cries offset stunned silence and sobs. Few saw the ball fully drop, and no one cared.
At first light, locals gathered at the Breakfast Barn downtown. An Orlando television station was going live to a news conference taking place in Marion County. Officials announced the capture of two male suspects and the continued hunt for a third.
“Police have determined that three shots were fired into the back of the head of Madelyn King, 45, of Lake Delford, killing her instantly. The two captured men have been identified as brothers Theodore Myers, 48, and Frederick Myers, 44, both of Lexington, Kentucky.”
Gasps of disbelief ricocheted off the walls of the eatery. It was suddenly clear to the sharper tools in the Barn why Harry Howe had never come home to Carrie Butler. (Though, as a Navy man, Harry surely felt right at home riding the waves of the Atlantic once again.)
The official wasn’t done: “The captured men offered some information about their accomplice, who apparently approached them at a Lexington strip club and proposed the plot to kill Ms. King. Police did not identify the subject other than to say he is reputedly a goofy old guy who uses the aliases Jolly Roger and Roger Rabbit.
* * *
“The alleged assailants insist that the two handguns now in police custody were each fired only once. They said that the driver, the Jolly Rabbit guy, felt sick and pulled their vehicle over on that I-75 exit where the Denny’s used to be, grabbed a gun from the center console, and made a weakened getaway into the woods near Mill Dam Lake. The public is cautioned that the suspect is said to be unstable, armed, and presumably dangerous. The entire area is surrounded, and authorities say his arrest is imminent. We will have updates as more information becomes available.”
And now it was obvious to most of the townsfolk that Roger Kabb had indeed survived his seven-year odyssey.
As the group struggled to make sense of the report, a beloved but entirely different goofy old guy entered and saw the bewildered, shocked expressions and the anger and tears of people he had known for years. He heard someone murmur, “I can’t believe she was murdered like that, so awful.”
“What? A woman was murdered right here in Delford?” he asked in disbelief. Silent nods confirmed the news. “Who was she?” Folks looked away. Seemed no one wanted to break his heart. “Speak up, people, who was she? Tell me.” Three women hemmed and one man, well, he hawed.
Finally, a well-ordered waitress drew him close and tipped him off. “They all know that you fancied her, Mr. Wright. I’m sorry to tell you that she was … Mae King, out at The Kabb Inn.”
(Though shocked and saddened by the news, he recalled fondly the time that he and the late Mrs. Wright were caught making out at the cabin at Camp Hickey the summer before the war, when they were both 15, even though they knew in their hearts they were dancing to the beat of Satan’s drum. He dutifully suppressed a smile.)
At about that same time, Roger Kabb heard the sounds of bullhorns and barking K-9s getting nearer to his resting place on a decaying pine log. Swarms of deeply disturbed fire ants had emerged from opposite ends of the log and mustered into one agitated army surreptitiously surrounding him. He stared down at the frenzied freaks and whispered, “What are you bozos lookin’ at? ‘Shoot me a postcard,’ she said. Well, I met her halfway on that one, didn’t I. So you guys can just bite me.” And they did.
He pulled a pen and a folded paper from his shirt pocket, spread the stained sheet open, scrawled shaky check marks into the last two boxes, crumpled the paper and tossed it five feet forward, where it was certain to be discovered and interpreted by know-it-all forensics geeks. “Fools won’t know Jack Nickles Chit about this Free Man’s Bucket List thing of mine, but sometime soon, everyone will” he mused, amused. Despite the ants at his ankles and Johnny Law drawing nigh, he inhaled a full dose of cool morning air, savoring it before slowly setting it free.
He hummed a few bars of Grace Slick’s “White Rabbit,” grimaced, then grinned like the Cheshire cat as he recalled the two lines that summed up the last chapter of his life. Unfortunately, he wasn’t sure if he could quote them to the surging, six-legged, sadistic stingers due to copyright laws, which bummed him out. Instead, he offered a few words of his own to summarize the subject and substance set forth herein:
“Ding, dong, the Queen’s Inn Red … King’s cold and dead … engaged to the Inn but left unwed … the white knight fled to the road ahead … his headlights darkened and his mind just sped … Fred returned and was declared undead … he and Ted, they wet the bed, overwrought and underfed … jailed for life, filled with dread … they all misread … what the good book said.”
The jig was up, the chips were down, her hare stayed home, his rabbit left town. This Kabb was out of gas as he raised the gun to the rising sun and had just enough breath and time to finish the final countdown from the Inn that bore his name: “Three, two, one….”
Maybe Mae had been right. Maybe he should have stayed home and written stories. Like this one.