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Authors: Rosanne Bittner

Do Not Forsake Me (32 page)

BOOK: Do Not Forsake Me
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Jeff cautiously stepped inside, his eyes widening.

“Your scalpel!” Jake ordered Keller.

“Jake—” The doctor made a weak protest.

“Give me the goddamn scalpel, Keller! I don't want to hurt you too!”

Keller went to his desk and opened his doctor's bag, taking out his scalpel. He handed it to Jake, his hand shaking. Jeff just stood there, frozen in place.

“No! Don't do this!” Bryant's man screamed again.

“How is Sparky?” Jake asked Keller.

“He'll be all right. He took a bullet in the chest, but it missed his heart. He'll have lung problems for a while, but he'll recover. He's dead out on laudanum.”

“Good. Now leave!”

Keller glanced down at the prisoner. “You made a big mistake being a part of harming this man's daughter,” he told Bryant's man. He looked at Jake again. “He calls himself Dooley. Just Dooley.” He glanced at Jake and Lloyd and shivered. Then Keller walked out.

Jake looked down at Dooley. “Where did they take her?”

“I…I don't know.”

Jake pressed on his wound with his boot, and the man screamed in agony. “Where did they take her?”

“They'll kill me!”

kill you if you don't talk! And I won't be fast about it! Where did they
her?” Jake pressed harder on the man's belly.

“I'm not familiar with Oklahoma.” The man started to cry, his face covered with perspiration. “They said…something about…hollow…some hollow.”

Jake took his foot away and knelt close to him then, running the scalpel over the man's face. “Do you know how easily these things can cut a man's eye out?”

Jeff felt ill but forced himself to watch, understanding Jake's wrath but torn by his ideas of what was right and wrong to do to a man.

“Where do you want me to start, Dooley? An ear? Your nose? Maybe I should go ahead and cut out an eye!”

“That's all I know!” the man groaned. “Some hollow.”

“I want you to think real hard. There are three places in this territory that I know of that end with the word
, and I'm not going to waste precious time visiting every one of them to find out where my daughter and grandson are.
, Dooley?”

“I don't know! I don't remember!”

Dooley wore only his long underwear. Jake reached down and jerked the underwear down to the man's knees.

“What the hell are you doing!”

“Considering what those men have in mind for my daughter…and you willing to be a part of it if you hadn't been caught…maybe I should use this scalpel to cut off your

“No, wait! Wait! Name the hollows. Maybe I'll remember if you name them!”

Jake looked up at Lloyd. “Hold him down, Son.”

Father and son's gazes held for a moment while Dooley screamed for help. No one came to his aid. Lloyd turned and straddled the man, sitting on his chest and facing him.

“Gurney's Hollow?” he asked Dooley.

“No! No, that's not it!”

Jake sat on the man's legs and grabbed his privates.

“Don't let him do it! Don't let him do it!” Dooley screamed.

“Apple Hollow?” Lloyd asked.

Dooley shook his head. Tears poured out of his eyes.

“Dune Hollow?” Lloyd asked.

Dooley's eyes widened and he managed to nod his head. Lloyd got up, but he turned and held Dooley's shoulders against the floor. Dooley managed enough breath to speak gruffly. “That's it! Dune Hollow! I swear to God, that's it! Please let me go!”

Jake let go of his privates. “Well now, I appreciate your cooperation, Dooley. But I need to make sure you don't get away. My very brave daughter-in-law put that bullet in your gut, and I'm goddamn proud of her for it, but you look like you're recovering, and we can't have that. Sparky over there isn't in any condition to jail you, and I don't have time, so I'll make sure Juan does it for me. But I think your recovery has been too quick, and I need to make sure you don't go anywhere.”

“What…what do you mean?”

Jake jerked him up, the man's long johns still around his feet. He ripped off the bandages around his middle, then slammed a booted foot into the man's wound. Dooley screamed bloody murder as Jake ground his boot hard. Then Jake turned and left, glancing at Dr. Keller. “He broke open his stitches. You'll have to sew him up again.” He charged away, Lloyd at his side.

“Pa, Dune Hollow is a good two-day ride east.”

“I know where it is.” Jake called to Juan, “Make sure that man sits in jail as soon as he's able to walk.”

Sí, Señor
Jake. You go and get your precious daughter.

Jake kept walking as he talked to Lloyd. “You tell Brian that if he wants to go with us, he needs to get some things together fast. Have Tobe fix up a horse for him and borrow a rifle from someone for Brian to take.” He walked fast as he talked. “Jeff!” he barked.

Jeff hurried to catch up again, leading his horse with him. “Yes, sir.”

“I'm going to my house. Tell the preacher to come over there.”

“The preacher?”

“The preacher.”

“Yes, sir.” Jeff hurried away.

“Lloyd, you go say your good-byes to Katie and Stephen.” Jake stopped walking and faced his son. “I'm glad as hell they're okay, Lloyd. Katie did good, real good. You take damn good care of that woman.”

“You know I will. I love her more than ever, Pa. What she did—that sealed it.”

“And that news about your mother…” Jake pressed his lips together tightly.

“I know, Pa. I want to celebrate that too, but there's no time to think about it now. Just think about the fact that when we get back, she'll be here, and she'll be well. She'll be here to greet you, like always.”

Jake turned away. “I've never needed her this bad.”

“She's already with you, Pa. She's already with Evie too. And Evie is stronger than you think.” They kept walking as they talked. “And she won't be scared, Pa, because she knows you'll come. She knows we'll
come. And Mom will be counting on us to bring Evie back, but she'll also be counting on
coming back, so don't go offering yourself up to Marty Bryant too quick. I know that's what you'll do if you have to, but there has to be another way.”

Jake swallowed. “Maybe.” He reached back and Lloyd grasped his hand. “Go talk to Tobe and then get Brian.”

“I will. I'll round up some extra men too.”

Jake let go of his hand.


Jake faced his son.

“Katie's pregnant. That's a good sign things will work out. I'm sure of it.”

Jake nodded. “Good. That's good. I'm happy for both of you.” He turned and walked back to where he'd left his horse. People stared and backed away.

Jake mounted up and rode his horse to the house, his heart aching at the sight of the damage…the trampled roses, bullet holes all over the front of the house, windows shot out, the door beat down. He dismounted and walked inside, wanting to weep at the destruction there, as though a tornado had ripped through it. The lamp Randy loved lay smashed to pieces on the floor.

He walked to the bedroom and pushed open the door. To his surprise, everything there was intact. If only Randy were standing there, waiting for him. He could hear her voice, remembered when she was changing clothes and complaining about not fitting into her camisole. If anything happened to her, how could he ever walk into this room again, or ever sleep here again?

He walked over to the bed and picked up a pillow, breathing deeply of the rose scent. He remembered how passionately they'd made love before he left. She was alive! And there was no cancer! What a wonderful day this would be if it weren't for his Evie being taken, and his precious Little Jake's life in danger. Would they hurt or kill a little boy? Could they be that cruel?

He squeezed the pillow tight, burying his face in it. “Randy…Randy,” he groaned. He sat down on the edge of the bed and rocked with the pillow in his arms.

He could hear her saying it, feel her in his arms right now, smell her on the pillow.


He looked up to see the tall, gangly Preacher Zilke standing in the doorway, looking a bit hesitant.

“You sent for me, but from the looks of you, I'm not sure I should come in.”

“Don't worry. My anger isn't at you.” Jake laid the pillow on the bed. “Sometimes all you need is to breathe in someone's scent to feel close to them.”

The preacher nodded wordlessly.

Jake glanced at one of Randy's nightgowns hanging on a hook on the wall before addressing the preacher. “I felt like I should tell you that I promised Randy that if she got through her surgery and it wasn't cancer, I'd go to church. But before this is over, Zilke, I'll have done things that will mean walking into a church is impossible. I already threatened to hurt a woman to get information out of her. I've never hurt a woman before, but this one would have risked my family's lives if I didn't—” He looked away. “And I just tortured a man to find out where they took my Evie.” He shifted, and the bed squeaked a little. The memory of how sometimes it squeaked a little too much when he and Randy were making love stabbed at his heart like a sword. “Right now, I'm not sure there is a God after all, Zilke. Why would he let this happen to my daughter and that wonderful little grandson of mine?”

“Jake, I know Evie well, and she is the sweetest thing who ever walked. I believe God gave her to you just to show you that there is good in you. It's not all Randy that has made her the way she is. It's also you. She feels your love, sees through that outer crust. I am telling you now that whatever has happened to her, evil has
touched her, Jake. Evil
touch that young woman, but evil can
her to bring out the evil in
. This could be a reckoning, Jake, a chance for you to once and for all cast out that evil.”

Jake put his head in his hands. “I don't understand.”

“I think you do. Evie thinks you walk on water. And when you find her—and you will—she will see whatever you decide to do to those men, and you will have to remember that and think about what that would do to
. She fully understands you kill men and you visit whores and smoke and cuss…but she doesn't see any of that. She sees a man who would willingly give his life for her if he had to. She sees a man who, in spite of the whores, has been faithful to and loves her mother as much as any man can love. She sees a man devoted to his children and grandchildren, a man who would gladly stop living this way if the law would let him…and she knows why you killed your father…and it doesn't matter to her because she understands the reasons.”

Jake looked at him in surprise.

“She told me, Jake. I know far more about you than you think. And when you go after those men, you have to remember to let God deal his own justice. You can't do to them what I'm sure you'd
to do to them, because Evie will be there.”

“Sometimes God's justice isn't enough.”

“They will burn in hell, Jake.”

“Yeah, well, I'll be right down there with them.”

The preacher shook his head. “Oh, no, you won't. You are far too good for that, and God knows it. When you approach those pearly gates, Jake, God isn't going to see Jake the gunfighter, or Jake the avenger, or the Jake who associates with prostitutes and was once a wanted outlaw. God is going to see Jake the little boy who had to help bury his murdered mother, Jake the little boy who suffered so terribly at the hands of a madman. He'll see the little boy who wants so damn badly to just be loved—the Jake who has learned all about how to love back because of the family he once never dreamed he would have. And God will welcome that little boy into his kingdom with open arms.”

Jake shook his head. “You don't know what all I've done.”

“The only thing you've done wrong, Jake, is you've never forgiven yourself for your father's death—and you've never forgiven your
. You don't know anything about
past. Have you ever considered that? Maybe there was something there that made him what he was, or something mentally wrong that he couldn't help. You can't be free of your demons until you forgive him…and yourself. God completely understands you and will welcome you into his kingdom one day, and here on earth everyone at my church will welcome you with open arms when you come through those doors.”

Jake kept his head in his hands. “I'll kill more men. I can't get to Evie without killing more men.”

“Of course you will. But the only thing that will be wrong is what you might want to do to those left alive
you get Evie back. That's the big test, Jake. If you think your father still lives in you, then this is the time to get rid of him. You have to leave
, Jake. He's given you the talent necessary to help people. You should use it for your job and to protect those you love, but not for wielding your own form of revenge. When you get out there, you remember the kind of man Evie thinks you are. You be
man. Do you understand?”

Jake ran his hands through his hair. “I, uh, I called you over here to ask if people from the church can clean up this place—maybe replace the windows that are broken. I don't want Randy to come home to this.”

BOOK: Do Not Forsake Me
9.85Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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