Friday, August 8, 2014

Chapter 16

Being tired or not it was time to get up, take care of nature's needs, and start the coffee ... in that order. I had the coffee going and pancakes making when there was a knock on the front door. I knew it wouldn't have been any of the men because they all knew at that time of the morning to come around back. A second knock and I took the skillet off the stove top.

There was a third knock, louder and more insistent. I ran to find Sloan but he was already coming out of the bedroom. I don't know why I did it but I ran behind him. I knew he was going to growl, I could see it on his face but then he didn't. Instead he brushed a piece of hair off my forehead and said, "It's probably just an early morning delivery. I was expecting one this week."

"Not if they were minding the curfew."

Sloan acknowledged my comment with a considering look then told me, "Stay here."

I saw Sloan go to the entry way and look out the peep hole and then he bit back a curse as it sounded like someone was trying to batter the door down with their hands and feet. Sloan yanked the door open then pushed the man who was there back and then closed the door with him and the man outside.

"I know she's here Sloan! I know she is! Chaundra!! Chaundra!! Get out here right now!!"

There was that name again. The boys were creeping down the stairs trying to listen in. "Hey you two!"

They jumped a mile and started to go back up the stairs until they remembered I was no one they were scared of. Silas said, "It's Uncle Jay. Guess Aunt Chaundra must have run off."

Dan came around the corner and said, "Boys ..."

They rolled their eyes but I noticed they did go back upstairs. I turned to go back into the bedroom when Dan said, "Sloan might need you."

"He told me to stay here."

"He still might need ..."


I heard the boys yell in fear at the sudden noise as a fight broke out on the front porch, at the bang on the front door then the crack the railing made as someone fell against it. In my mind it was that day all over again only I wasn't by myself. Sloan was out there by himself. I rushed the door and was out on the porch before I even realized I had opened the door up. And I didn't stop then either as I saw a man swinging a knife at Sloan's middle and catching his forearm instead. I had my pistol out and aimed and not even Dan was fast enough to stop me.

"I will shoot you dead. I will shoot you dead and then feed you to the hogs if you so much as take one more step. You even breathe in his direction I swear I will splatter your ugly brains from here to the highway. I will ..."

All the other men that had run up at the same time stopped and looked at each other unsure what to do to defuse the situation. Sloan's arm was bleeding and that made me mad. I couldn't explain it to you then but somehow it congealed all the anger that I had been trying not to feel over what happened to my family and how my security - through Sloan - was being threatened all over again. And then there was the issue of Sloan himself. I was unable to even quantify that part of it. Josiah later told me I looked so mad that you could have fried an egg on my head and it would have burnt before it could be flipped to the other side.

The man dropped the knife and put his hands up. Dan and a couple of the men ran up and grabbed him, kicking the knife out of reach at the same time. They dragged him a few feet away but I tracked him with my revolver. One of the men in the ring around us called, "You better do something Boss, she's looking kinda twitchy."

I jumped when I felt hands at my shoulders, rubbing my arms gently and then sliding along towards my hands. "You're scaring the men Teaghan," Sloan said like he thought it was mildly amusing. "I won't get any work out of them today if you keep it up."

The blood on his arm really registered all of a sudden and I almost pulled the trigger. "He hurt you. He HURT you!"

"Whoa now. It's just a scratch. C'mon, you don't really want to fill my cousin full of holes do you?"

"I don't care who he is. He came here ... banging things around ... breaking things ... just ... like them ... and then he HURT you. I won't let ... I won't let ..."

"Ok Teaghan but it's over with now ... it's over. Take your finger off the trigger Sweetheart. It's ok now."

"He HURT you."

"Just a scratch Sweetheart. Just a scratch. Ol' Jay is just highly emotional. Poor guy ... got the family temperament but not the red hair to warn people of it."

And just like that I uncocked the revolver and put it back in its holster but then I made an absolute fool of myself by bursting into tears and grabbing Sloan so hard I nearly squeezed the air out of him. I heard but didn't really register Sloan telling Dan to get the coffee and sober Jay up with it. I refused to turn loose until Sloan picked me up and took me into the house. I was still in the throes of that awful day, reliving it, thinking of it happening to Sloan, wondering what would have happened if Sloan had been killed. I was shaking so hard I was almost sick from it.

"Oh gawd ... one day you're going to leave ... just like everyone else. Oh gawd."

"Shhhh. Hush Teaghan. I'm here now. Jay is an idiot ... and a half way drunk one at that ... but ... there's likely a good reason behind it."

"There is NO good reason. He HURT you. I can't stand it ... I can't. I can't do this again ... not again."

"Shhhh. Shhhh. Sweatheart. Hush now."

I'm not sure how long it took me to calm down and make sense ... a good twenty minutes if I had to hazard a guess.

"I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. Oh gawd Sloan ... if you didn't think I was crazy before you do now."

I tried to get up off his lap but he held me fast. "I don't think you're crazy. I think it has been underestimated just how frightened you were when that mob came to the farm. But I don't think you're crazy."

"I'm not a child no matter what you think. You don't need to pacify me or pretend. I've made another mess of things ... only this one is horrible. I could have shot your cousin. He's probably out there ready to call Mr. Burdock's men." I shuddered.

"Jay even thinks of causing problems over this and I'll cave his head in. This is an old wound acting up and I need to get to the bottom of it before the fool gets in trouble he can't be gotten out of. I want you to stay here ..."

"Wait. I'll go cook something. At least I'm good at that. I can ..."

"Teaghan ... I just need you to stay in here for a while until I get the story out my idiot cousin. I ... I would prefer you not hear some of what is likely to be discussed ... at least not until I get a chance to explain my side of it. It's a damn Hillbilly soap opera as it is; I don't want to have to undo damage that doesn't have to be made in the first place ... especially in the state you're in."

That shamed me. Still does. That I knew he thought I wasn't strong enough or that I wouldn't take his part. And somehow it had come to me that I would no matter what the story wound up being and that more than anything else is why I stayed there while he went to the office where Dan and his cousin sat waiting until Sloan had felt I was safe enough to be left alone.

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