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Authors: Keep a Little Secret

Dorothy Garlock - [Tucker Family]

BOOK: Dorothy Garlock - [Tucker Family]
10.26Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
Keep a Little Secret


This book is dedicated to the Friday morning coffee girls, Ann Doubler, Denise Hathaway-Easley, Mary Ann Hendricks, Lindy
Lemon, and Marge Theiss; and good friends Michelle and Doug Klein, Jody and Rex McChesney, and Lois Woiwood.

Thank you all for being my sounding board.


Oklahoma’s so bright it hurts my eyes,

Yet when I squint I can see for miles.

In this clear light it’s a grim surprise

That secrets so dark lie behind some smiles.

Does that kind man hide a cruel past?

Does this rude man have a tender heart?

Is this romance too fragile to last?

Will my brave new life soon be torn apart?

Is hatred the goad and vengeance the task?

In such evil soil, can true love grow?

These are painful questions I dare not ask.

They have answers I fear to know.



Longbow, Colorado—December 1938

on the ramshackle porch of his family’s small house, staring absently into the falling snow. The storm had come on hard in
the last hour and showed no sign of letting up. Before him, the hood of the doctor’s automobile had already become covered,
despite the heat of the rapidly cooling engine. A swirling, merciless wind cut sharply on the exposed skin of Owen’s hands
and face, but he paid it little heed.

Though the inside of the small house was warm, well heated by the wood-burning stove, Owen felt no need to head indoors in
spite of the miserable weather. Outside, alone with the growing fury of the winter storm, he could pretend that his mother
wasn’t dying, if only for a short while.

Behind him, the door opened, then was quickly closed.

“I’m afraid there is nothing more that I can do for her, Owen,” Walter Calloway, Longbow’s doctor, said in a resigned tone
of voice. “She never woke while I was examining her, but her sleep is far from peaceful.”

Owen gave a slight nod in answer, still facing the falling snow.

“Though it greatly pains me to say it, I believe the day we’ve all been dreading has finally arrived.”

“How much longer does she have?”

“It’s all in the Lord’s hands now,” the doctor answered. “Hannah is doing her best to keep Caroline comfortable, but besides
making sure that the fire remains fully stoked, all we can do now is wait.”

Dr. Calloway’s heavy-lidded eyes, hidden behind thick-framed glasses, gave ample evidence that his concern was genuine. He
looked tired, worn beyond even the many years he had served the town, weighed down by the burden of an illness he couldn’t
hope to cure.

“Thank you for everything you’ve done for her,” Owen offered.

“I only wish that I could have done more,” Dr. Calloway answered, putting a hand on Owen’s shoulder in condolence, before
he trudged through the piling snow to his car and drove away.

For a few moments longer, Owen remained on the porch. Looking out into the distance, he could see only
the faintest glimmer of light emanating from a weather-shrouded home; the homestead he shared with his mother and sister had
few neighbors, and now, even in their greatest hour of need, no one offered to help. Whatever was to come they would face
alone, as always.

Reluctantly, Owen went indoors. When he entered, Hannah didn’t glance up from her duties. With determined diligence, his sister
wiped away the beads of sweat that dampened their mother’s brow. Caroline Wallace lay small in her bed, ravaged by her sickness,
her teeth chattering and her tiny, fragile shoulders shaking as if they were leaves caught in the teeth of an April storm.
What beauty she’d once possessed had been stripped away by illness, leaving behind dark and sunken eyes, cracked lips, and
skin as pale as faded parchment.

Soon she would be dead.

Tenderly, Hannah swept back a stray strand of her mother’s grey hair, tucking it behind the sick woman’s ear. With a weak
smile, Hannah whispered words of comfort to the restless woman, but Owen was too far away to hear them clearly. Caring for
her night and day, Hannah did all that she could, although nothing seemed to lessen Caroline’s suffering.

The small, three-room home Owen shared with his mother and sister was sparsely furnished; besides the bed in which his mother
lay, the front room contained nothing except a rickety table, a pair of broken-down chairs, and the dilapidated wood-burning
stove. Their lives had been
full of little but struggle. Owen tossed a few more pieces of wood into the fire, following what little advice the doctor
had been able to give.

Eventually, Hannah rose from her mother’s bedside and joined Owen beside the stove. Both weariness and worry were etched across
her face; caring for Caroline in her dying days was a burden they had both willingly shouldered, but a burden nonetheless.

“Dr. Calloway said that it’s only a matter of time.” Owen’s words faltered.

“Don’t say such things,” Hannah whispered, her eyes darting to where her mother still fitfully slept. “She’ll hear.”

“She can’t hear us now, Hannah.”

“You don’t know that for certain.”

“Even if she knows what we’re saying,” he explained, “I don’t reckon she’d fault us for seeing the obvious.”

“It’s just not something that I want to hear.”

“But it’s the truth.”

Hannah’s mouth opened as if she wanted to argue the point further, but instead her gaze wistfully settled upon their mother.
For a long while, the room remained silent save for the crackling of the fire.

“She isn’t going to be able to tell us now,” Owen finally said. “Once she’s gone, we’ll never know.”

“It’s no longer important.”

“The hell it isn’t!” he snapped, the worry and anger he had been holding inside for days, months, and even years finally starting
to erupt. “Are you saying that the
knowledge we’ve waited our whole lives to learn can just die with her?”

“What are we supposed to do, Owen?” Hannah pleaded, her eyes growing wet with tears. “Do you want to rouse her and make her
talk? Should I quit making her as comfortable as I can until her tongue finally loosens and she tells us who our father was?”

“But we just can’t… we have to know…” he sputtered, knowing how difficult it had always been to put what he wanted into words.
Frustration burned in his belly. “Goddamn it all!”

Hannah’s hand found his and he turned to face her.

“We need to accept that we may never know,” she said softly.

Owen fought against the meaning of his sister’s words. All his life he had wondered about the man who had abandoned them when
he and Hannah were still in their mother’s womb, who had broken his mother’s heart and left her to fend for herself and her
children… the man who had forced them to accept charity and ridicule from neighbors and who now would not be there to watch
Caroline Wallace breathe her last.

“I can’t do that,” Owen spat solemnly. “I can’t accept it. I’ll tear this place apart piece by piece if I have to. Mother
may have wanted to keep her little secret, to try her damnedest to protect us, but for what that man has done to all of us,
I swear that I will know his name.”

And then that son of a bitch will pay!

Chapter One

Kansas City, Missouri—June 1939

, Charlotte Tucker slapped the well-dressed young man flush across his clean-shaven face, releasing a storm of shock and anger
to darken his handsome features. While her blow clearly hadn’t hurt him, her reaction to his forward and improper advances
had undeniably taken him aback. The sound of her striking him, loud as a gunshot, hung in the air of the train depot.

All around them on the busy station platform, people had begun to gawk. In the instant after Charlotte struck the man, there
had been a deafening silence, hushing the frantic hustle and bustle of travelers scurrying to their destinations. But that
quiet was short-lived. Murmuring voices rose as faces turned, fingers pointing at the source of the commotion.

“How dare you say such things to me!” Charlotte shouted, ignoring the attention she was attracting. “Have you no shame!”

“Miss… I… I…” the man stammered. “I’m afraid that you must have misunderstood me…”

“How could I possibly have mistaken what you said?” she disagreed forcefully. “When a man approaches a young woman he doesn’t
know, has never so much as spoken to before, and asks if she would like to find a hotel room for the afternoon, what could
his intentions possibly be?”

Color rose at the man’s collar, a bright, obvious crimson of embarrassment, in stark contrast to the perfect white of his
starched shirt. His discomfort was worsened by the snickers that rose among the crowd.

“But… but I never said such things!” he argued defensively.

“And now you go and make it worse by lying!” Charlotte accused. “How many other young women have you approached in such a
scandalous way, scheming and lurking in the shadows until you found an easy mark?”


“I suppose you imagined that I would go along with your ridiculous, insulting plans,” she continued, not giving the man a
moment’s pause. “You never imagined you would be exposed, did you?”

“What kind of man says such a thing?” a voice asked from the crowd.

“Must be some kind’a pervert!” another added.

Quickly looking from side to side, the man was uncomfortably aware that he was drawing too much attention to himself. Dropping
the façade of innocence, he stepped closer to Charlotte, reached out, and snatched her tightly and painfully by the wrist.

“You better keep that mouth of yours shut, bitch,” the man threatened, “unless you’re looking to get hurt!”

Instead of shrinking in fear from the man’s threats, Charlotte rose to meet them defiantly, her gaze never wavering, even
as she unsuccessfully tried to disentangle herself from his grip.

“Let go of me this instant!” she cried.

Before the sound of her angry voice could fade into the depot, the man suddenly raised his hand as if he meant to strike her,
a blow that would have hurt more than the one she had struck. Still, Charlotte never flinched, facing her would-be attacker
with steely determination. But before the man could follow through with his intentions, a voice cut through the relative quiet
of the platform, startling all those who watched.

“Now what seems to be the matter here!” a deep baritone bellowed. “That ain’t no way to treat a lady, fella!”

Charlotte turned to see a squat, frowning policeman waddle over menacingly to where she and the man stood, his watchman’s
stick clutched tightly between calloused, thick fingers. He looked ready to act and broach no disagreement. At the sight of
him, the man released his grip on Charlotte and took two hesitant steps backward.

BOOK: Dorothy Garlock - [Tucker Family]
10.26Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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