Thursday, August 21, 2014

Chapter 25

"A septic tank?"

"You got a better idea?" I asked Sloan.

"No, as it happens I don't. And at least this one," he said pointing to the open cap of the tank at the old Turner home site. "Won't contaminate the farm's water supply."

With some satisfaction I agreed and told him, "As they decompose they'll fertilize your hemp crop. Some justice in that."

The bodies of the enemy nearly filled the tank. Dan came up carrying a bag of lime and a bag of quickcrete. "Lime will go in before the cap. Then we'll smooth this over and fill in around the inspector's seal. You'll never be able to tell the seal was broken since it was set such a short time ago."

Sloan asked him, 'Everything else finished?"

"Yeah. Denton and Clayton got every vehicle down to parts faster than I thought possible. Guess the rumor about them having been part of a car stripping operation as kids has some truth to it. Josiah just called and said the boys are pretty upset. Maybe you two better get back and let us finish up here. Only have fifteen minutes left ... tops."

Sloan refused to ride in the bucket of the tractor and asked me to walk back with him. I shrugged. My adrenaline was gone and I was exhausted just like everyone else. I'd had about all I could take. Leaving the farm, all the changes I saw all over, the men, the strip center, Sloan, finding out just how big an idiot I'd been, some personal revelations ... I was ready to walk off and leave him and let him limp back to the farm by himself if he started anything.

The sound of the tractor faded leaving the normal night sounds. We just walked, not talking, then right before we turned the bend in the road so that we could see the house in the first pink rays of morning he stopped. I walked a few more steps then stopped as well.

"Get a stone in your shoe?" I asked.

"No." He shook his head. "Where were you?"

I wasn't going to play stupid so I admitted, "Getting some air. Thinking."

"I ... I was worried. You left the buzzer on the table. I couldn't find you in the house at all then that crowd showed up."

"The buzzer wouldn't have worked where I was."

"Where was that?"

"A place that I could think ..."

He sighed then asked with quiet intensity, "Were ... were you with someone?"

"Not the way you're thinking. But thanks for that on top of everything else."

"Teaghan ..."

"Anything else?"

When he didn't answer I turned and at first I thought he was fooling but as he fell bonelessly forward I got to him barely in time to keep his face from digging up gravel. "Sloan?"

I checked and found several lumps on his head and face in addition to the other injuries I'd seen earlier. I looked behind me and saw the headlights of Dan's truck and flagged him down.

Dan stopped, took one look, then asked, "Did you have to knock him up side the head to get him to see sense?"

"If that had been my intent I would have let him hit the ground."

"Too bad."


"Knock it off Syd. You too Silas. My head is killing me."

"Aunt Teaghan says you aren't allowed up and said we have to make sure you don't."

"Since when do you take orders from her over me?!"

"Since she promised us a watermelon pie if we watched you so she could bring the laundry in."

Sloan squawked in outrage but I smiled in grim satisfaction as I walked in. "Good job boys."

"Where's my clothes?!" I indicated to the boys they should escape while there was opportunity and they scampered with wicked grins while Sloan shouted, "Dan!!!"

I told Sloan, "Forget it. He's outside and has instructions not to rescue you no matter how much noise you make."

"I don't need rescuing. I need my pants."

"No you don't. In fact you don't need what bit you do have on either. Come on and take a bath so I can finish cleaning and patching you up."

More squawking and a copper-headed tantrum followed until he finally ran out of steam midway through. Getting him out of the tub was not fun for either one of us. I dried him off and got him back in bed. "Teaghan ..."

"I'm going to get you some broth and you need to eat it so you can take something for the pain. Then you need to rest and let it work."

"Teaghan we need to talk."


I'd caught him off guard again. "Excuse me?" He acted like he'd never heard the world before.

"I said no. Until I'm sure I can believe what you're saying talking is a waste of my time and yours."

He made the mistake of trying to cross his arms but wasn't able to, even without the gesture he still was able to sound mulish as only a man can when he said, "Well I'm not eating until we talk."

"Then you aren't getting anything for the pain." I turned and left the room.

Some creative cussing followed me out. It got even louder when he relized I had taken everything out of the room but the thin sheet on the bed. Dan was in the kitchen trying not to laugh. "Being a little hard on him aren't you? You'll pay for it later."

I shrugged. "He can't have the pain pill until he eats otherwise he'll just puke it up. Do Charlie and Duncan need anything?"

Dan snorted. "Even if they did they won't come near the house. The Boss' temper is legendary."

"Compared to my brothers he's a cake walk so far. I expect he'll get worse before he gets better however. Anything spotted on the highway yet?"

"No General."

I gave him the same look I had given the boys not too much earlier when they had picked up the new nickname some of them had started to call me. "Knock it off."

Dan snickered again. "Sloan is gonna have a blast with this facet of your personality. Where you been hiding it?"

"No where. It's always been here. I told you Dad and my brothers wanted me to be able to defend myself. Now ..."

"Now ... I want my damn question answered."

I turned to find Sloan leaning hard on the archway that leads into the kitchen barely holding up the sheet he had wrapped around him. The patches of skin showing where the sheet didn't cover were turning dark blotches of red and purple. He really had been pummeled.

Giving him a stern look I said, "I don't know whether Jeremiah and Jason would have killed you or thought you were a long, lost brother. All three of you certainly remind me of the same portion of a donkey's anatomy. Are you ready to eat?"

"I want ..." He tried to step forward in righteous indignation but tripped over the trailing end of the sheet and nearly fell. I waited to see if he could catch himself and he did, only I saw a look of real pain slice across his face. "Do you want to puncture a lung? Because if you break those cracked ribs that is what is likely to happen if you keep this up."

"Don't care," he rasped out.

"Well you better start caring. You've got responsibilities. What do you think would happen to the boys if you were gone from their lives? There's men outside that depend on you for their livelihood. And the farm. Whose hands would it fall into next? You don't have the luxury of playing this kind of game anymore. You're too valuable a player in too many people's lives."

Dan skedaddled and Sloan snarled after him, "Traitor!"

"He's not a traitor," I told him. "He's your friend. He's got a couple of bolts loose but it appears he means well."

I stood there just looking at him, waiting for him to decide what he was going to do next. He grumbled something unintelligible beneath his breath then made his way over to the table and sat down. I brought him a mug of broth and then tied the sheet so he could use both hands without showing the world everything he was born with.

When the first one was gone I came back to refill the mug but he waved me off. "Just sit with me."

I sat and continued to pair up socks.

"Teaghan ... are you ok?"


"OK, dammit. Are you ok? Did anyone hurt you? Touch you?"

"I'm fine. You want a pain pi ..."

"He grabbed the hand I had used to push away from the table with fast than I had ever considered he could move. "I don't want a damn pill. I just want ... need ... you to ..."

Another spasm of pain crossed his face. I asked, "What hurts?"

"Everything. Mostly my pride."

Understanding better than he knew I told him, "You lived. Tell your pride that and then tell it to shut up."

"Easy for you to say."

I shook my head. "Not as easy as you seem to think but I'm walking proof that it can be done. C'mon, let's get you back to bed. A little rest will do you good."

Grumbling unhappily he said, "All I'll get is stiff."

Agreeing with his prediction I told him, "Likely. But that's generally the first step on the road to recovery."

"What's the first step down the road to me recovering my place in your good graces?"

I was not in the mood for his sweet talking. I stood up but suddenly his grip on my hand was strong and painful. I told him, "Let go."

He refused. "No. I can't chase you, you'll get away."

Beginning to get fed up I snapped, "Let go!"

"No." He laid his head on his hands that were hold my hand. "I don't know any other way to be."

Words. That's all they were on the surface. Be they were also an admission of sorts.


  1. Thanks for the great chapter Kathy.

  2. Let's hope he's wising up. Too many men and women have let their pride do their thinking for them.