Friday, November 25, 2011

Chapter Eight

Chapter Eight
(It's long because I've missed writing this story will I concentrate on my novel for NaNoWriMo. Now that that is finished I hope to get up dates here on time. Thanks for your patience. Any comments or questions are always welcome. Billie)

So much tension, Jamie watched Ben carefully. Was he strong enough for this? He, for sure, had always been stalwart and like the beacon on a stormy sea, you could always count on being there when you needed him. There was only so much a person could shoulder and Ben had seen his share lately. Since her father's death, Jamie could feel Ben slipping away, getting older and aging in more ways than just the number of his years.

"I'm here now. I'll stay, at least until we get this all under wraps. Now, where did that nephew of yours get to?" Jamie was more curious than ever. Would Ben's favorite nephew turn tail and run at the first sign of trouble?

"He's out there." Ben waved his hand toward the door. "He's keepin them company so they don't do somethin stupid to make us lose more cattle. I tell ya missy, lately, if it ain't the four legged coyotes it’s the two legged variety." It seemed Ben retreated into himself again.

Jamie wondered out loud. "Why didn't you call me if there was so much trouble?"

Ben melted into his chair. "Since when does a grown man go cryin fer hep over a few miserable outlaws? That's what they is ya know—outlaws."

It was obvious Ben thought the battle was his. He always did look at her as a girl—a girl child, no less. Hadn't he noticed she had grown up more than capable of handling her share of trouble? Jamie sat on the arm of the chair and draped an arm around Ben's shoulders.

"They think the law was made for Joe Schmo, not them."

Jamie could tell Ben's hackles were bristling. He wasn't one to let law breakers get away with it. But, Jamie didn't want Ben to have a heart attack over it. "I think you and BJ did what had to be done. Sheriff Hale and his men will get to the bottom of this."

As if on cue the door opened and BJ and Sheriff Hale came in deep in conversation, which stopped when BJ saw his uncle so drawn and worried. "Hey Unc—it's all going to be fine. We'll get that field plowed and re-seeded for free." He winked at Jamie.

While she was glad to see his spirits allowed for joking and levity, she wasn't pleased with his something for nothing attitude, perhaps he just did it to lighten the load for his Uncle Ben. Jamie hoped that was the case instead of what she thought.

Sheriff Hale interrupted BJ's jovial spiel. "I need to bring some equipment out to do that Ben." He looked from him to Jamie and back again. "One of you needs to sign the paper work so I can."

Ben patted Jamie's knee. "I'm jist the hired hep here. Miss Jamie is the boss."

Jamie smiled. She's never felt like the boss here. Partner, maybe, boss, never. She couldn't understand why her father didn't leave the ranch to Ben. "Sure, I'll sign, but don't let him fool you, he really is the boss. I'm just a city slicker glad for a little country R & R time, occasionally."

Everyone laughed. Jamie especially liked BJ's laugh. He reminded Jamie of a much younger Ben. Anyone could tell they were kin. It was good to see Ben's spirits brighten. He had, had enough trouble.

When Courtney burst through the door Jamie knew she was just more of the same kind of trouble she was trying to protect Ben from. It never failed if there was any trouble around Courtney was part of it. She sauntered over to the group and hung an arm over Sheriff Hale's shoulder. Jamie thought she detected Sheriff Hale's cringe. "Lookie what we got us here. A meetin of the minds, or is it—oh never mind. What'd ya do this time Ben? You got enough law out there ta start a posse." She threw her head back and cackled at her joke.

Courtney slithered over to BJ. "Or, was it this bad boy who brought them in?" She traced a button on BJ's shirt, hanging on him like a bad odor; she acted as if they were lovers.

Had they been connected since Jamie left? She knew how quickly Courtney could zero in on what she wanted. And, she usually got what she wanted, one way or another.

BJ shook her loose. "I'm thinkin it was more your style of trouble that brought them here."

Ouch, Jamie thought, no one dared talk to Courtney like that without paying for it. Everyone tiptoed and cajoled the spoiled little brat. Jamie suppressed a laugh.

"Aw, the rooster's got his tail feathers singed. So, what's the big deal?" Courtney plopped down on the couch stringing her bubble gum out of her mouth with an index finger and then working a cat's cradle of sorts out of it while everyone watched.

The center of attention always, one way or another, Courtney made sure of that. Jamie waited as it seemed the others did for Sheriff Hale to tell her what he wanted her to know.

"I'm sorry. Can't give you any details just yet. Ongoing investigation and all you know."

Now Courtney took affront. Her anger blew her off the couch as she went toe to toe with Sheriff Hale. She pointed a manicured and detailed red polished finger into his chest. "Listen mister—I am part owner of this blamed acreage if you're on my land, I better know the reason why."

Jamie moved to intercede. Sheriff Hale grabbed Courtney's accusing finger from his chest and moved his face within inches of hers. "Insults will get you a cell with no view. As far as I'm concerned you are an absentee land lord. The people who maintain this place have been notified. I will caution them not to divulge the contents of our investigation to anyone—including—you." He released her hand and stood stock still glaring at her.

For a long cold minute Courtney froze her glare was full of fire and Jamie could nearly feel the ice coursing through her sister's veins. She held her breath—Courtney jerked her finger form Sheriff Hale and spun like a whirling dervish including them all in the venom that spewed from her mouth. "You'll all pay!"

Though her words were nothing more than a loud whisper, she spit them out with such force they all sat paralyzed as Courtney fired toward the door. She turned long enough to glare at Jamie, point at her as if her hand had become a pistol and Courtney was going to pull the trigger. "You—City girl--," she turned and bolted out the door.

It was as though she sucked the air from the room with her. A feeling Jamie had once when she had to escape from the barn being consumed by fire while Jamie tried to get all the horses out—the fire used up all the oxygen, just like Courtney did.

"Whoa, that was some fire ball." BJ was the first to speak in Courtney's wake. "Is she always that charming?"

"Sometimes even worse." Sheriff Hale said shaking his head. "She's a piece of work. Hard to believe she's part of…" He swallowed his words.

Jamie knew Sheriff Hale wouldn't insult one family member to another, no matter what he thought, it wasn't his style. Ben just sat. IT was as if Courtney's display had drained the life out of him.

"She'll get over it. She's always had a short fuse." Jamie couldn't stand the tension Courtney always left in her path.

Ben slapped the chair arm and bounded to his feet. "Let's have us some coffee. I got fresh baked apple pie ta go with it." His energy returned as he made his way to the kitchen. The relief was almost palpable. Courtney was an entity whose influence faded on the surface, but burrowed under the skin and festered like an open sore. Jamie was glad to have her attention diverted, while Courtney's final words singed her mind. What evil would she conjure next?

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