Monday, August 25, 2014

Chapter 29



I remember I just about jumped a mile when Josiah popped up at the kitchen screen door; I'd been day dreaming, something I didn't normally do, but Sloan had said some things after waking me up in the middle of the night that had my head spinning trying to figure out why he'd said them. I guess he'd had a dream or something and wasn't very awake but the bottom line was that I wasn't supposed to be talking to red-headed men unless it was him. Well I'd never talked to another copper headed man ... a couple of copper-headed boys when I was very little and still in school but I didn't see how that could count. It must have been an odd sort of dream but it was me that it wound up haunting in the long run.

In a rush Josiah told me, "Sloan says stay in the house or better yet get in the basement. Couple a cars spotted turning into the farm road."

He reached in and pulled the big wooden door closed and I heard someone else closing the shutters on the back of the house upstairs while someone else closed the bottom ones. "Boys?" I called. Silas' head appeared below the top of the staircase.

"Uncle Sloan told us to close the shutters then we're supposed to stay quiet."

I heard the worry in his voice; they were still shaky from the night time attack. Truth be told it crossed my mind that someone had gotten bold enough to do it in the daytime. I asked, "Want to see where I used to go during a bad storm?"

They came clomping down the stairs lickety split and all three of us went down to the basement. They became fascinated by the "playroom" and started making plans for it right off. I'd picked the right distraction. "OK you two. I'll give you the same rules my mom and dad gave me. You can call this your space so long as it isn't needed for family stuff and so long as anything you put in here stays cleaned up. Got it? I can't worry that I'm always going to trip over something when I'm down here."

The bargain made I casually drifted back up the stairs and stood on the first floor landing trying to listen. I couldn't hear anything so I opened the door and stepped into the kitchen which was now dark due to both the closed shutters and door. Frustrated I eased to the archway and finally could hear voices coming down the hall and realized men were on the front porch but not inside the house. Lucky for me the windows to the office were still open.

A voice I didn't recognized said, "That must have been some fall you took Williams. Shoulda come to town to see a doc. Can't afford to keep losing you at the Market."

"You didn't lose me," Sloan responded. "I made sure things got where they were going. Just 'cause my body ain't there doesn't mean my spirit wasn't. And tell McEwen over there not to wander. Not all my men know him ... and we've got a new bull that is full of **** and vinegar right now and likes to charge anything and everything. He's bad enough I've forbid the boys and Teaghan from going anywhere near the pen."

Then I heard Mr. Burdock's voice. "Minds you does she?"

"She's usually got good commonsense."

The other man muttered, "Lucky you."

To cover the sudden awkward silence Mr. Burdock at first harrumph'd and then said, "I don't see her around. Usually she's quick to run and bring some refreshments."

"She's still ruffled and upset about the other day. I don't know what those guys were playing at but they nearly had me in the hots with the Highway Patrol. I can't afford that. I have to do too much out-of-county travel to get on one of their lists. And you seemed to know their folks?"

Dan nearly scared me out of a year's growth pointing me back in the direction of the kitchen. "You never hear anything good about yourself that way Teacup."

"And if I don't I'll never hear anything at all. How crazy will Sloan get if I bring tea out to the porch."

Dan looked down the hall then at me. "None if that is all you do. It'll probably help if you make an appearance then skedaddle back inside like you don't like being around strangers."

"I don't."

"So much the better."

I got the tea as I heard Dan go outside. Apparently he'd gone to get some numbers for Sloan to pacify Mr. Burdock with. Once I had things on a tray I went to the screen door but just stood there until Dan nudged Sloan. He looked up and scowled but nodded. I brought the tray out and set it on the table and was going to skedaddle but Mr. Burdock stopped me.

"I'm sorry to hear that you were upset. I'm afraid that with so little work to be had some of the young men are getting restless and a little too high spirited."

I shuddered then said softly, "Dad said when the boys would get up to high jinks that it is always fun and games until someone gets their eye poked out. Sloan could have gotten hurt and those Highway Patrol people were ... scary."

Mr. Burdock nodded. "They aren't the most reasonable, that's a fact. I'm afraid they will be out here pestering you to make some kind of statement and twist your words."

"Why would they want to talk to me?" I turned to Sloan and gave him a wide eyed stare and he snorted and then scowled at me.

"You'll answer their questions and that's all you'll do."

"Not by myself? You'll be there like you were before?"

"Teaghan ..." he muttered and shook his head. He was trying to head me off but I had a head full of steam and just bulldozed on through.

I turned back to Mr. Burdock and said in a properly brainless voice, "Why can't they ask you? You were there and you know all those men. You know everyone and everything that goes on around here. Dad always said so. Sloan says I shouldn’t put that much pressure on you but I don't mean to, it's just the way it's always been that I can remember. Please?"

Mr. Burdock, as men such as I realized he had become, gave a little smile, puffed his chest up and nodded. "I'll do what I can like I do what I can for the rest of the community but I'll admit to being disappointed in how those young men conducted themselves. Speaks of troubles at home, lack of order and discipline where they're needed. Miss your father; he was a man that understood discipline even when he was a raw private fresh out of basic. Saw that in him right off. Never forgot it either. Glad to see Sloan here continuing in that vein. Tobacco crop was solid and what's this I hear about you got you some hemp permits?"

Him turning back to Sloan and to business talk was my dismissal and I gladly took it. The two men with Mr. Burdock weren't his normal company when he came to the farm. They were dressed in what I took to be uniforms of some type and I couldn't stand the way they eyed me up and down.

About a half hour later the visitors left and Sloan came inside to find me humming in the kitchen. Grumpily he said, "I ought to paddle your behind. I nearly busted a gut when Burdock actually swallowed that load of manure you dished up for him. 'Oh you know everything and everyone Mr. Burdock. Can't you talk to them pleeeeeeeze.' You were laying it on so thick I thought one of those idiots would have had to pick up on it but they didn't."

I shrugged and just kept preparing supper.  "Dad used to say that men want to hear what they want to hear and that's all they'll listen to. I just applied that principle."

With a slightly worried expression he told me, "Yeah, well be careful of what you apply and who you apply it to. Be more wary from here on out Sweetheart. Just because Burdock's crowd may have to lay low for a while it doesn't mean they are out of commission entirely. Was just informed that the School District has decided to come in and review the school and 'realign' some of the curriculum being used. I expect there'll be some nosing around by other agencies as well. I hope there's no trouble but sometimes people get pushed into a corner and they'll come out fighting. Until I know which way it is going to jump you just take it easy."

I nodded. "Those two men in the uniforms were nasty. I felt like I was covered in pond scum before I could get back inside. They stared so hard I thought their eyes were going to roll out to try and get a look under my skirt."

Sloan growled, "I noticed. Which leads me to my next edict and I don't care whether you like it or not. If anyone besides Burdock comes around, or he comes around with anyone you don't recognize, you take the boys and go down to the basement and let whoever I have taking care of things do their job if I'm not around. Understand?"

I looked at him. He was not fooling and was dead serious and trying to hide how worried he was so I said, "OK."

A little unprepared for the fact I didn’t give him any grief Sloan asked, "No fuss or temper General?"

The use of the nickname some of the men had given me was to try and goad me but I wasn't biting. I told him, "I may not have been a soldier but I have enough sense not to start a fight I can't win." I walked over to stand beside him and said, "Besides I know you're just trying to be the husband and protect me ... and the baby."

He sighed and put his arm around my shoulder to make me turn to him. "I don't want to fight, and that's a fact; we've both had enough of that and need a breather. But … listen Teaghan, Baumgarten and McEwen coming around with Burdock adds a spin I don't like. They're both with the Sheriff's department - hell, Baumgarten is the Sheriff - but they were out of uniform and acting more like some kind of inspection team or security monitors. They were trying to send some kind of message but I’m not sure what yet.  That McEwen especially bugs me; he was going to wander to try and get an eye full ... nose into things that were none of his business. Plus I know him from someplace and I know when I figure out from where I have a feeling I'm not going to like it. Just ... do me a favor will ya ... if you have to leave the yard - like when you go off to pick your herbs - take Josiah or someone he assigns with you. I have a feeling ..."

He was rubbing his head that was still sore in places.

I reached up and pulled one of his hands away.  "Stop that or you'll make it worse. You want me to rub some liniment on it?"

"Yes ... but I'm going to have to deny myself. There is still a crapload of stuff to do if we are going to get out of here tomorrow." He sighed. "I gotta go Sweetheart but ..."

"Then go," I told him I told him matter-of-factly. "Dad and the boys hated leaving me alone when they went to market. I got a full run down of do's and do not’s every single time. But it still had to happen. The same with you. The farm needs money so we can keep putting food on the table. You need to replenish what you spent on the hemp farm. Reality is what it is."

"You can say it. You can mean it. I can believe it and even agree. But that doesn't change the fact that it makes me uncomfortable to be leaving for a week. It is a small job but with big rewards and another opportunity on the other side of it. I can't afford to alienate the reclamation rep that gave me the heads up."

"Then stop wasting your energy on trying to pacify me when it isn't necessary. I'm not going to have hysterics or anything. And like you said you have a lot to do before you leave tomorrow ... so go do it."

Sloan sighed and then looked at me like he was trying to figure something out.  He started to do that a lot right around that time and I eventually thought I had figured out why but looking back I wonder.
 

Eventually he said, "You know it's great having a practical wife ... but then again there are times it gives me heartburn." He turned to go but then stopped and asked me carefully, "If you could have something come back as a treat what would it be?"

"For you to come back safe is more than treat enough." I kissed him on his cheek, something I'd gotten in the habit of doing I guess as a sign to both of us that things were ok then told him, "Stop wasting currency. The sooner the winter storage is set up and spring planting saved up the easier we'll both rest."
 

Sloan got that look on his face again … like he was confused and not liking the state at all.  Since I didn’t’ know what he was confused about there was nothing I could do to alleviate it.  And like he had said, “We’d had enough brangling for a while.”

3 comments:

  1. Thanks Kathy Great story!
    Wayne

    ReplyDelete
  2. Dag nabbit Kathy! Ya made start to like the cheeky bugger again!

    LOL! ;) thanks!
    Kellie

    ReplyDelete