Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Chapter 16


Letters Home


"It is curious that physical courage should be so common in the world and moral courage so rare.”      – Mark Twain

 

We heard them before we saw them.  “Sheriff this is useless.  Kingston admitted killing his men so he wouldn’t have to share the gold with them.”

Another man, not the sheriff said, “Get off the Sheriff’s back Lern.  If you hadn’t shot him dead before, he could finish telling us where he’d left the bodies.”

Another man said, “Stop your own whining Nick, Lern saved my life.  Kingston had a knife to my throat.”

A voice deep with authority said, “Enough you three.”

Lee and I had edged forward to see six men standing near a building that had collapsed under the weight of a fallen tree.  Suddenly Lee all but made me pass out when he made a bird whistle he had no business making.

The Sheriff and the two men that hadn’t spoken looked at each other casually.  The Sheriff told the three others, “Come with me, we’ll check down this trail a short way.”  Looking at the other men he added, “You two go that way.”

“That way” just happened to be in our general direction.

The older of the two just stood there a moment and then asked, “You aren’t really going to make me do that stupid whistle are you?  You know these dentures make it a pain.”

Lee grinned and got up but motioned for me t ostay put.  He whistled a bit before pushing through the bushes to be pulled into a bear hug.  “Damn Boy, couldn’t believe when your father told me.  Found what you came looking for?”

“Yes sir.”

The other man – over sized boy once I got a good look at him – asked, “What did you come looking for?  Dad won’t say.”

Lee grinned and then answered, “He must have his reasons.”

Turning back to the older man he said, “There’s parts of some bodies about a hundred yards down that trail and twenty or so yards in.”

“Parts?”

“Something has been at them.”

“Hmmm.  We’ll tell the sheriff.  You want me to tell your folks you’re amongst the land of the living?”

“Yes sir, if you would.  Is everything OK at the farm?”

“Louellen had her baby.  Another boy.  She’s already told your brother the next one better be a girl or else; said five boys is enough for anyone sane.  Sam and Jed started their own hunting outfit and some of the rest of them will process it when they come back and down off the mountain.  You know Israel Waterstone?  He runs the pontoon boat they use for those that want to come this side … meat, metal, or ammo is what they’ll accept.  They also bring government people up here for their water and air samples.”

“Sounds like a good deal.”

“Nearly as good as East Coast salvaging”  After a thoughtful moment the man said, “Lee you best play least in sight for a couple of hours.”

“Why?”

“The Sheriff see you he might have to bring you in as a witness.  With the way the weather has been turning, you might not get back ‘til Spring … maybe longer if Kingston’s family lawyers get involved.  He was a rich man that did a stupid thing … but that only means he’s got family to try and buy his reputation back.  He was claiming self-defense but Sheriff didn’t buy it.”

“I won’t tell you all your business, but I’d say the Sheriff is right.  You get a look at a couple of things, you’ll see what I mean.”

There was another back pounding hug and then Lee faded into the woods opposite from where I was at.

“Dad, why’d you let him go?  You know Jed and Sam have been hunting for him to make him come home and help take care of things.”

“Cause a man has the right to make his own way and his nephews only want him back so’s they can leave more often with a clear conscience.  They figure if ol’ reliable Uncle Lee is around their mothers and grandmother will stop harping on ‘em.”

“They’re older than Lee is, they can boss him.”

The father chuckled.  “Maybe he tolerated it once upon a time, but I’m thinking that time has come and gone.  Now let’s go mark that spot for the Sheriff.”

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