Authors: e a lake
Good God; of all the trouble she’d caused me before, this took the cake.
“Maybe you killed him just a little too quickly, aye?”
A scowl crossed her face. “He was a pig and a freeloader. He was going to steal all of our food. Someone needed to kill him.”
I leaned in closer. “I was going to wait until Libby was safe, in case you were wondering.”
The door cracked open behind me. We both turned to find Lettie staring at us.
“You two want to come back in here and get this contraption off Libby?” she asked, shaking her head at us. “Mother and daughter are getting a little anxious. You two can argue about whatever you’re yapping about later.”
“Cut the tips,” Violet seethed, pounding her fist into my shoulder.
Lettie placed a hand on my chest as I tried to walk past her. “Everything okay there, Bob?” Her expression told me she wanted the truth.
I paused and thought for a moment. “Just a little difference of opinion on what exactly we’re doing, that’s all. Got it cleared up now.”
She nodded before taking her hand away. “Good. Because you’re going to have to figure out what to do for Daisy’s heart attack if you don’t take care of this soon. Hustle up.”
Another great motivational speech from the senior member of our group. Just the kind and caring words of inspiration I needed.
A few minutes passed before I tossed the wire nippers aside. They wouldn’t cut the steel prongs. I needed something else, something more robust.
Lettie dug out our meager toolbox. “Screwdriver, Phillips screwdriver, monkey wrench, Allen keys.” She listed the contents as if reading an old recipe card. “Got a file, maybe that will work?”
Libby wiggled with boredom. Daisy paced with anxiety. I squeezed my eyes tightly shut, wondering what to do next.
“Bingo!” Lettie shouted. “Pliers. These should work.”
She handed them to me with a large smile. But I didn’t see their usefulness. Were we going to
the prongs away?
“And these help how?” I asked, trying to sound less skeptical than I felt.
She pointed at the tool. “The jaws, near the hinge. You can cut with those.”
I gave her a look and thought,
No way old lady.
“I’ve done it before,” she continued. I expected her to sound irritated. Instead, she sounded damn near like a braggart. “Just get them in there as close as you can and nip the wires. Should work.” She nodded, as if to boost my confidence.
Carefully, I used her described technique on the first wire. Much to my surprise, it worked. But there was a problem. One short piece of metal remained intact.
“Don’t worry about that,” Lettie scolded as I poked at it. “Just keep cutting. The worst it can do is pinch her a little.”
Whether Daisy shrieked at the idea or Lettie’s callous explanation, I wasn’t sure. I went back to work.
In a few short minutes, all of the prongs were gone, six sets of short wires left that may or may not pinch Libby when removing the device. For the last part of the procedure, I turned to Violet.
“Okay,” I said, letting her take my place next to Libby, “do what you got to do. But be careful.”
Taking a seat, Violet shook her head at me. “Be careful,” she mocked in a childish tone. “Like I’d be anything else.”
Easing the nippers under one of the two metals strands, she peered around at Libby’s anxious face. “Nothing’s going to happen, sweetie. This will all be over in a minute or two.”
Libby nodded, wiping her dripping nose with the butt of her palm.
Daisy leaned close. “Are you sure this is okay, Vi?” she whispered.
The teen simply nodded and went back to work.
Our group jumped. Daisy screamed, assuming the worst. Violet turned and glared at all of us.
“It was just me cutting the wire,” she seethed, again shaking her head. “Now if you’d all be quiet and show a little more confidence, I’ll get this taken care of.”
The second wired gave way with the same snap as the first, and Violet proudly held the necklace up for our inspection. “See, it never even went off. I told you it was a ruse.”
We all sighed a breath of relief. Daisy snatched Libby from her stool and kissed her over and over again. Rising from her spot, Violet gave me a smirk and thrust the device out in front of her.
Lettie gingerly took the necklace, examining it with an uneasy caution, as if it might still bite. When she handed it to me, the whole thing exploded with a loud
Violet shrugged, showing no guilt or embarrassment. “We got it off her,” she snarked. “No big deal.”
Yeah, whatever girly,
It could have been a deadly big deal.
Together, we established a new rule. No more repeats of “the Libby Incident”, as we now referred to it. No longer would she be allowed outside unattended. If we were out, she could be as well. Under no circumstances was she to be by herself.
I now also carried my gun at all times, no exceptions. Planting the garden, gun on me. Going to the well, gun on me. A quick run to the outhouse, gun on me. No more roaming around with my gun lying on the counter inside.
As an added precaution, we kept Lettie’s 30-30 loaded and propped next to the door. If anyone saw anything that made them uncomfortable, they were to grab the rifle and jack a shell into the chamber.
That was a safety measure I insisted upon, loading the gun. The old rifle held six shells in its below-barrel magazine. We wouldn’t force one into the chamber until needed. If something happened and the gun tipped over, it couldn’t go off that way. But having it at the ready, fully loaded, was essential. And everyone happily agreed to the plan.
Watching the afternoon rain roll off the roof and into large puddles, my frown deepened.
According to my calculations, Johnny Wilson had left eight days ago. Or maybe it was only seven. The point was, I had a plan in place for my attack. All I needed was for my family’s safety net to show up so I could put it into action.
Three days up and three days back was what old man Wilson had claimed. That made his return a day or two late. Given the steady rain, I wondered if another day might pass before I got going.
I heard footsteps behind me as I gazed out the front window, then a hand on my arm. When I looked down at the small hand, I knew who it was: Daisy.
Ever since we had taken the maniacal torture device off of Libby’s neck, Daisy had been quiet. I didn’t think she was angry about anything, at least not something I had done. Perhaps Violet’s youthful ignorance had upset her.
“No one back yet?” she asked, her tone soft, tinged with fear. “Maybe when the rain lets up. Mr. Wilson probably doesn’t want to haul flour here in the rain.” I felt her nod against my side, agreeing with her own logic. “That’s probably best.”
It wasn’t what she said, it was what she refused to talk about. Particularly my leaving — my plan for revenge.
We took a spot on the couch and were promptly handed Hope. I gazed up at Lettie, the person who had offered us the infant.
“She needs her diaper changed and another bottle,” Lettie announced, turning for the stove. “I’ll get the bottle started if one of you wants to change her. Be sure to use that coconut oil on her bottom so that damn rash doesn’t come back. I can’t handle another night with a screaming baby.”
For as much as we complained amongst ourselves, Hope was a happy baby. Given the fact she was born in a time that resembled the early 1800s, she was a great baby.
“What’s her mother up to?” I asked as Daisy went about the chore at hand. “Haven’t seen her much today. She still in bed?”
Not turning to reveal her expression, Lettie poured warm water from the stove into the one bottle we had. “She has a touch of the blues,” she answered plainly. “Might be the weather. Might be postpartum. Could be something else. She and Libby are in the bedroom cuddling. Maybe that will help her feel better.”
Oh great, this again,
I checked Daisy for a response. She didn’t look away from Hope once as she cooed at the baby. Lettie still refused to make eye contact. Violet was in hiding. Like I didn’t know what any of that meant.
“You know,” I began, trying to control the anger in my voice, “I’m doing this for our protection. It’s not like I’m running off to fight some mythical dragon. These people have proven they’re a real threat.”
I could’ve sworn I saw Lettie shrug at my words. When I peeked at Daisy, I noticed her nodding slightly. But still no words.
“We are discussing this tonight,” I stated, rising from the couch. “When Hope and Libby are asleep, everyone is going to have their say. Then it’s over. Got it?”
I only got two slight head nods and not a sound from the bedroom, which was good enough for me.
Day 1,016 - continued
Seated around the table, we silently stared at one another. Next to me was Daisy, on her right sat Violet. Lettie sat on my left, fighting a sock she was mending.
“Let’s hear it,” I stated, my eyes going between the trio of naysayers. “Time to get it all out in the open.”
“We all know what you got to do,” Lettie began frankly. “Just none of us are too excited to see you die.”
I could always count on the old bird to get things started with her honest input. Instantly tears formed in Daisy’s and Violet’s eyes.
“I think it’s stupid,” Violet whimpered, wiping away tears. “Going after killers isn’t the smartest thing.” She glared at me. “They’re killers after all. So...duh.”
Taking my hands, Daisy tried to smile before speaking. She did not attempt to chase away any of her sorrow. “I don’t want you to get hurt, and you know that. I just keep thinking there’s another way to solve this, one we haven’t thought of yet.”
Much to their credit, no one held back. I wanted honesty, and that was exactly what they were giving me. Now it was my turn.
“Wilson gave me three locations they could be at,” I began. Scratching the back of my neck, I craned my head to the left. “I’m going to start with the closest and work my way out. I’ll creep in at night and hide in the thickest brush I can find. That way, come morning, I’ll be able to watch what’s going on without being seen.”
Violet shot me a nasty look. “And if they see you sneaking in? If they catch you before you hide. What then?” she objected.
I opened my mouth to reply, but she cut me off. “They’ll kill you, that’s what. And when they come here, whether Mr. Wilson is here to protect us or not, they’ll kill all of us, too.”
“I’m not going to let myself get caught, Violet,” I countered, keeping my voice low so as not to add kindling to the fire she wanted to start. “Once I’m in the woods, I’ll be as quiet as a mouse.”
She rolled her eyes and began to sniffle again. I turned for Daisy.
“Doesn’t that sound reasonable?” I asked.
She sighed before pulling back her thick blond hair. “I think Vi has a point. You’re doing this so we’ll all be safe. And I understand that.” Several nods accentuated her pause. “But the opposite outcome needs to be examined as well. The one where you never come back.”
She turned and faced me directly. “That isn’t what you want to have happen, Bob. We all know it. You need to think this through more. Maybe give it another month or so.”
Glancing back at Lettie, the disagreement I hoped to find wasn’t there.
“In another month, they could attack us again,” I stated. “What happens then? How are we any further ahead by not bringing the fight to them, right now?”
“You won’t be dead,” Violet snarled. “There’s always that.”
I glowered at the teen. “You’re confidence in my abilities is overwhelming and fills my heart with pride.”
She bolted up from her chair. “First,” she shoved her finger at me, “you get your hand damn near shot off and almost bleed to death. Next,” another finger poked my direction, “you get shot in the side and again, almost die. You lived two times when you had help. How do you think you’re going to fare all alone in the woods, shot to hell?”
I raised my hands up, signaling for a truce. The best I got was her arms slapping around her waist.
“I’m not going to get shot,” I said, trying to console Daisy more than Violet. If I could win her over, I’d have two of the three on my side. “I won’t be in the open; no one will even know I’m there. I’m going to be careful. I’m going to come back.”
Daisy again forced a smile. Again, she failed, instead coming across as defeated. “All Vi is saying, all I’m saying is this… we don’t want you to die, Bob. Please try to understand our point of view.”
“Hell, we’re all going to die someday,” Lettie added, picking up a new piece of clothing for mending. “You just don’t need to rush into it. That’s all.”
Zero for three. What a terrible idea this had been. Now even
began to wonder if I was coming back alive.
Another week passed and still no sign of anyone, much less Wilson. Standing in the front yard, staring at the road from the south, I wondered if maybe a trip back to his farm was in order.
But that, in and of itself, was problematic.
I couldn’t run the risk of leaving the women alone for the half day it would take to get to Wilson’s farm and back. Though they could protect themselves, the recent attack by the stranger from the road still haunted me. The risk outweighed any reward I might gain.
If Dizzy was here, if he was still alive, I could go. But then again, if he hadn’t died the past winter, none of this would have been necessary. Or would it have been?
The attack back then came like a bolt of lightning from a clear winter sky. The Barster gang caught me, everyone actually, completely off guard. Their actions couldn’t be planned for, that much was a given. But if they hadn’t killed my best friend, we would’ve been stronger, even while tightly shacked up together in this small cabin.
The largest problem was that they knew we were still alive. Even after killing two of their gang, they had to know there were survivors. There was no way, in my mind, that they had the notion that everyone had died in that fiery blaze.