Author note: I am well aware that the Centre and Mayberry occupy two different decades in time. I have completely disregarded this and set this story in a space-time continuum of its own. However, it does take place soon before Miss Parker meets Thomas.
Miss Parker Goes To Jail
"I'm sorry, ma'am, but you were speeding."
Miss Parker glared out of her window at the tall, genial-looking sheriff with red-brown curly hair and suspiciously twinkling brown eyes. "I'm in a hurry," she snapped.
"Wa'al, ma'am, we can't allow you to speed through our town. We have a whole passel of young'uns about to get out of school for lunch, and it wouldn't do to hit one of them. Oh, no. I'm going to have to give you a ticket."
"Look, officer, I'll drive slower. But I'm in a hurry, so let me go!"
"Sorry, ma'am. Can't do that."
"I'm not paying a ticket!"
"Miss Parker," Sydney said from the back, "it would be better just to take it and be on our way."
She slewed around and glared at him. "After what happened the last time in a stupid, podunk town like this, I am not taking anything from a rent-a-cop with a plastic badge!"
"Now, that's direspectin' an officer and flouting the law, ma'am. Would you step out of your car?"
Fury on her face, Miss Parker got out. The sheriff didn't blink at her short skirt and long legs.
"Now then, ma'am—" His hand flashed and arrested hers in its move toward her back waistband. "No, you don't." He relieved her of her gun. "Ma'am, you are under arrest. You have the right to remain silent…"
Half an hour later, Miss Parker was fuming in another small-town jail cell.
"I told you, Miss Parker—"
"Shut up, Syd!"
"Well, at least it's nice," Broots grinned.
There were two cells in the jail, which also appeared to be the courthouse, and they were actually decorated with quilts on the beds, lace doilies, lamps, and pictures on the walls. Miss Parker glared at a doily as if it personally affronted her.
"It's a jail cell, Broots."
Sydney was trying to reason with the sheriff. "Sheriff Taylor—"
"Oh, you can call me Andy. Everyone does, Mr.—"
"Call me Sydney. Miss Parker has a temper, Andy, but she didn't mean anything by it."
"She tried to pull a gun on an officer of the law, and we don't allow that here. Don't you worry. I'm sure you'll have her out of here in a few days, and meanwhile, Mayberry's a great little town, just great."
"I'm sure it is," Sydney said courteously, "and you have a most pleasant jail here, but it's not quite what Miss Parker is used to."
"Well, now, I'm right sorry about that, but I'm not making any exceptions."
"But we can't get our lawyer here for several days because of the storm in Delaware."
"I am right sorry," Andy Taylor said again. "Can't be helped."
The door flew open, and a thin, eager-looking man came in, carefully shutting the door behind him. "Hey, Andy!" he cried, "Aunt Bee says that—"
"Barney," Andy overruled him, "meet Sydney and Miss Parker. And—I didn't catch your name," he said to Broots.
"Broots," Broots said.
"And Broots, Barney. This is my deputy, Barney Fife."
Barney was staring at them, especially at Miss Parker. "You caught them, Andy?"
"I caught them speeding. And trying to assault an officer." He shook his head mournfully. "That's a mighty dangerous thing to do. Mighty dangerous."
Miss Parker gave Barney a very dirty look. "Look, Broots, it's your twin."
"I don't have any twin!" Barney exclaimed.
"Don't you worry about that now, Barn," Andy said. "Just go back to my house and ask Aunt Bee to bring enough lunch for three more. And tell her to keep Opie home, would you? And tell her I'll come to talk to her later."
"Sure, And." Barney gave Miss Parker another stare. "Gosh, And—"
"Just go, Barney!"
He gave a foolish chuckle. "Oh, sure, And." He hurried out.
"Now, you two just make yourselves comfortable," Andy told Sydney and Broots. "My Aunt Bee'll be in with lunch right soon. You're in for a treat. She's a goo-ood cook."
"Do you always treat your prisoners like this?" Sydney asked, bemused.
"Why, shore. 'Course we don't get much more'n moonshiners n'chicken thieves, mostly. We did just recently have a dirty cop in here, though. Boy, was he a mean'un. Woulda turned this town into his own private playground if it hadn't been for that Jarod feller."
Miss Parker bolted up and seized the bars. "Jarod?"
"Yeah, Jarod Griffith. Undercover cop from Richmond-way. You know him?"
"We've been looking for him," Sydney said. "Is he still in town?"
"He headed out yesterday. Looks like you just missed him. Pity. He said he does a lot of undercover work. Who knows if you'll be able to find him now."
Miss Parker swore, drawing an astonished glance from the sheriff. "What, don't people swear in this town of yours?"
"People do. Ladies don't."
"I'm no lady. Did Jarod leave anything behind?"
"Wa'al, now, come to think on it, he did leave his notebook behind. Let me see." He rummaged in his desk. "Here it is. Looks like he was on to this crooked police man long ago. Funny way of keeping notes on him."
He gave the notebook to Sydney, who looked at it before responding to Miss Parker's imperious hand through the bars. The first article pasted in it said, "MAYBERRY'S POPULAR SHERIFF SUSPENDED." The second said, "CROOKED COP CAUGHT, SHERIFF REINSTATED."
"What happened?" Sydney asked.
"Wa'al, this policeman came to town. Big shot from Raleigh. And he started taking exception to the way things are run in this town. He suspended me for a good coupla weeks, brought in his own fellers. Suddenly he was running the whole town. Who knows how long it would have gone on if your friend Jarod hadn't shown up. He was working with Floyd at the barbershop first we heard of him. You can hear a lot of talk at barbershops. He found out about this man, that he wasn't really from Raleigh but was just using the name of a real policeman there, how he wanted a good staging ground for moving some dirty goods from place to place and figured keeping the local police off balance would be a good idea. It sure would have been, if not for Jarod. A fine man, very fine. Plays a mean guitar, too."
"Jarod plays guitar?"
"Sydney, it's Jarod," Miss Parker snapped.
"Oh, yes, Jarod and I had a coupla good times playing, though he did say it was the first time he ever picked up a guitar. I wasn't sure if he was joking or not."
"He wasn't," Broots said.
"Wa'al, he sure was an extraordinary man."
"You can say that again."
"Shut up, Broots."
Andy stared at Miss Parker in astonishment again. He had probably never met anyone like her before. Then again, most people hadn't.
At that moment a woman bustled into the courthouse. She was short and stout, had grey hair coiled on top of her head and a round face with prominent teeth, a sweet smile, and twinkling eyes, and she carried a large basket.
"Oh, Andy!" she called, her voice warm and melodious, "here's your lunch. Barney brought me your message."
"Thanks, Aunt Bee. Where is Barn?"
"Oh, he's eating with Opie. I thought that was best."
"Good idea, Aunt Bee. Let me introduce you to our guests. This is Miss Parker, Sydney, and Broots. Folks, this is my Aunt Bee Taylor. She's the best cook in the whole state."
"Oh, Andy—" She blushed pleasurably, then did so again when Sydney took her hand and bent his head to her.
"It's a pleasure to meet you, Mrs. Taylor."
"Miss Taylor, but you just call me Bee like everyone else does."
"What'd you bring me, Aunt Bee?" Andy pronounced "Aunt" like "Ain't" and put an element of warmth and affection into it that made the mispronunciation merely charming.
Aunt Bee started unpacking the basket. "I thought it was a good day to make your favorite fried chicken, Andy, and there's potatoes and succotash and baking powder biscuits, and I'll send Barney over with the pie when he's done eating."
"Better feed him plenty afore he comes, Aunt Bee, or there won't be any pie left when he gets here!" Andy grinned.
"Oh, don't you worry. He'll get fed up, right along with the boys."
"Boys? Oh, is that friend of Opie's eating with him? That's fine. Opie's my son," he explained, "and his friends seem to show up at the back door right about lunchtime. Everyone knows about Aunt Bee's cooking." He pulled a stack of plates out of the bottom of the basket, handed one to Sydney and one to Broots, who was salivating. "Tuck in, folks."
"Tuck in?" Sydney queried.
"Aren't you hungry? Have some lunch. You don't want to miss Aunt Bee's fried chicken."
Broots didn't need another invitation. He tucked in. Aunt Bee was piling a plate high with food. Crowning it with a fluffy biscuit, she brought it to Miss Parker's cell door, which Andy unlocked for her, and set it neatly on the small doily-covered table with a napkin, fork, spoon, and a tall glass of milk.
"There now, you just eat up, Miss Parker. I'll be by later to see if you need anything. This place isn't really set up for a woman, but we'll make it right comfy."
Miss Parker just stared at her.
"Do you always give your prisoners home-cooked meals?" Sydney asked.
"Well, we cain't have them going hungry," the sheriff answered, tucking in comfortably. "Wouldn't be legal-like."
The food was amazing. Aunt Bee stayed long enough to blushingly receive their compliments—even Miss Parker had to admit how delicious it was—and then trotted away. Andy saw her out. When the pie arrived intact with Barney, it was even better. Broots practically groaned with pleasure.
"Now, Barn," Andy said when they had finished, "why don't you show these two gentlemen to the hotel and then go out on patrol?"
"Uh, well, Andy—I thought I'd get some of that filing done—"
"Not now, Barn."
Looking considerably disappointed, Barney jerked his head toward the door. "Well, come on you two. I don't have all day."
"Oh, Barn—take this basket back to Aunt Bee, will you?"
"Oh, that'll look real professional, the sheriff's deputy carrying a big, fat picnic basket around on patrol."
Andy grinned, his eyes lighting with mischief. "You didn't have a problem with it yesterday, when you got to boast about being the first to try Aunt Bee's new meatloaf recipe."
Barney drew himself up to his full height, which was barely taller than Broots'. "Oh, that's manly, Andy, casting up a man's past actions to his face. Real worthy of you." He stalked out, slamming the door behind him. Seconds later it opened, and he stalked back in and grabbed the basket. "Well, are ya comin' or aren't ya?" he snapped at Sydney and Broots.
When the door closed behind the three of them, Miss Parker murmured, "He and Broots are Tweedledee and Tweedledum."
"You read Alice In Wonderland, Miss Parker?"
She glared at Andy. "Nice tea party, Mr. Mad Hatter."