Read Train From Marietta Online

Authors: Dorothy Garlock

Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #General, #FIC027000

Train From Marietta (7 page)

BOOK: Train From Marietta
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After Eddy had left, Kate looked around for something to hang over the window to provide a little privacy. There was nothing but the skirt she was wearing. Without any hesitation, she unhooked it, let it fall to the floor, picked it up, and hung it on the two nails above the window. She had been wondering how she was going to relieve herself, and, as mad as she was at Eddy, she was grateful for his thought-fulness.

She lit the candle, letting some of the wax drip onto the table, and pressed it down, securing it. She relieved herself in the bucket and wondered what her stepmother would think of this miserable indignity.

Susie or their mother would have gone into hysterics, and Hayden might have cut their throats.
I intend to survive and see that these men, including Eddy, pay for their crime.

She couldn’t understand what would cause Eddy to team up with these two unsavory characters! She knew that he had wanted to court her but had respected her lack of interest. She’d assumed that he would eventually marry Susie. Did her father’s partner, William Jacobs, know what his nephew was up to? She was certain that he couldn’t possibly know. Mr. Jacobs was such a refined man. Her father trusted him, or he would not have let him buy into his firm. Surely he would be mortified!

She sat on the bunk and took off her shoes. They’d been ruined when she scrambled up the hill. Even if she could get out of the room, how would she get away? She couldn’t walk in these shoes. If she could reach the car, she could drive it away, but she doubted that Hayden would ever leave it alone long enough.

Seeing that the candle was burning down, she blew it out. Carefully laying aside the stick matches Eddy had given her, she thought briefly of trying to set the cabin on fire but dismissed that idea as a bad one. The only thing she could do was wait for the right opportunity to get away. She had to be patient and wait until the scar-faced man was away from the cabin. She sure didn’t want any more encounters with him and his knife.

She heard the sound of a door opening, followed by Eddy’s loud voice.

“You sleep over there, Squirrelly I don’t want you going anywhere near that door. Do you hear me?”

At least Eddy hadn’t lost all his ethics. Her ears picked up the sound of Squirrelly’s voice.

“I told ya! He just wants her for himself!”

The scar-faced man’s rough voice answered, “Leave her alone.”

“I ain’t gonna do nothin’,” Squirrelly whined. Kate wondered if he was as afraid of the other man as she was.

“See that you don’t,” Hayden growled. “If you want her after this is over, that’s between you and Jacobs. But as long as I’m here, and the money ain’t, you’ll not bother her.”

Kate sat in the dark, her ears alert, the last of Squirrelly’s mutterings fading into the night.

She must have slept. She awakened to the sound of someone lighting the cookstove. She lifted her skirt from the window and saw that it was daylight. It frightened her that she had slept all night. Hurriedly she got up and used the bucket to relieve herself, put on her skirt, and sat down to wait for what would happen next.

Chapter 6

T
ATE WOKE FROM A GOOD NIGHT S SLEEP
. He stretched and yawned. God, he was glad to be home. Waiting at the fort had been dull, but the trip home had been anything but. Dealing with that woman on the train had been a real eye-opener. He didn’t even know why he’d jumped to help her with her valise; it seemed the gentlemanly thing to do at the time. How was he supposed to know that it’d pop open, leaving him with a handful of female undergarments that weighed no more than a heap of feathers? She hadn’t appreciated the gesture. But then, what could he have expected from a fancy-dressed woman who had never done a full day’s work in her life? She’d be as helpless as a babe in arms when it came to taking care of herself in this part of the country. He had to admit to himself that she was pretty, though, despite being helpless and more than likely brainless.

Hearing Yelena moving around in the kitchen, he dismissed the woman from his mind, flung his feet over the side of the bed, and hurriedly dressed. He had more important things to do than think about someone who’d embarrassed the hell out of him.

Yelena had fired up the cookstove, and the familiar smell of breakfast cooking caused his stomach to growl.

“Morning, Yelena.”

“Morning, señor,” she replied, turning from the stove where she was frying strips of meat. A pan of golden biscuits sat on the back of the stove. Yelena’s biscuits were exceptional. He dipped water from the reservoir into the wash pan. It was a luxury to wash in warm water. He’d washed in cold for nearly three weeks in the barracks at Fort Davis. The commander didn’t believe in coddling his troops.

“Jorge out with the mare. He thinks she foal sometime today.” Yelena set a platter of meat on the table.

“Why didn’t he wake me?”

“He say you tired, you need sleep. She not foal for a few hours yet.” Yelena set a pan of biscuits on the table and went back to the counter for a crock of butter.

Tate didn’t hesitate. He filled his plate with split biscuits and reached for the meat and the bowl of gravy.

Yes, it was wonderful to be home.

The day was hot and windy. Tate spent most of the morning in the barn with Jorge. The mare, Lucy, didn’t foal until shortly before noon. The birth was a hard one; they were beginning to wonder if they might lose her. Jorge had to pull the foal. The filly was strong, and Jorge laughed with pleasure.

“Looky there, señor! Looky there! She strong and standing, looking for her dinner!” Jorge straddled the filly and guided her head toward her mother’s teat. The filly sucked lustily.

Tate went to get a large helping of oats for Lucy. The mare gobbled up the treat as Tate stroked her head. She had earned it.

When Tate came out of the barn, Emily was sitting on the edge of the porch. Old Bob lay on the ground at her feet.

“Hello, sweetheart. Are you ready for dinner?”

“Yelena says we don’t have any Post Toasties.”

“You didn’t get your Post Toasties this morning? I’m going to town today. Do you want to go with me and we’ll get some?”

Holding tightly on to the porch post, Emily pulled herself up so she could stand. Tate hurried over and scooped her up in his arms.

“Can I go? Can I really go?” she asked excitedly.

“We’ll go right after we eat.” He carried her into the kitchen and set her down on a chair.

“We’re going to town after a bit, Yelena. Make up a list of what you need. Put Post Toasties at the top.”

“Sí.”

Tate lathered his hands and washed. A fresh towel hung at the end of the wash bench. He carried his wash water to the porch and threw it out into the yard, barely missing Old Bob. Jorge came out of the barn.

“Better hurry, Jorge, if you want anything to eat. I’m hungry as a wolf.”

Jorge laughed. “You not like the mess they feed you at the fort?”

“I liked it all right, but it’s been three days since I was at the fort,” he growled.

Jorge followed Tate into the house. “How my
bella chica
?”

“Pretty girl?” Emily said with a big smile, pleased that she knew the Spanish words. “Jorge, you’re so funny!”

Still laughing, Jorge threw an arm around her little shoulders, gave her a gentle hug, and kissed her forehead.

“You Spanish is good, my
bella chica.”

“We both your pretty girl,” Yelena said, putting her hand on her husband’s shoulder. All three of them laughed.

They were as affectionate as the day they’d come to the ranch, over six years earlier. Tate felt a twinge of envy and wondered if he would ever find love like they shared.

When they sat down to eat, Emily ate everything Yelena put on her plate. She was excited about going to town. “Hurry, Daddy! Hurry!”

Emily was beside herself with excitement as they approached the town.

Muddy Creek was little more than a cluster of unpainted buildings that lined both sides of a dusty road. The town got its name from a thin ribbon of muddy water a half mile to the south. After a flash flood in 1917 that almost washed away the buildings on its bank, the town moved to higher ground and had enjoyed a bit of prosperity since the rail line had come through.

The stores, their fronts decorated with tin signs advertising everything from Copenhagen chewing tobacco to NeHi soda pop, lined a wide boardwalk. The street was empty except for a few dusty cars and several wagons. Saddled horses were tied to a rail, their tails swatting at biting flies. The high, midafternoon sun beat down. A pair of chickens pecked and scratched their way across the street. As in most small towns, groups of men were gathered about gossiping and talking politics. The United States flag fluttered from a tall flagpole in front of a small neat building at the far end of the street. Tate planned on stopping at the post office before he and Emily headed home, but first they needed to tend to the list that Yelena had given him. After parking the pickup truck, they crossed the street to Ful-bright Mercantile.

With Emily on his arm, Tate entered the store through a squeaky door. Neatly stocked shelves full of bottles and tins lined the store walls. Barrels full of crackers, beans, and coffee rested on the floor in front of a long oak counter with a shiny brass cash register on one end. Tate’s nose was filled with all of the tempting scents that floated through the air.

They had been in the store for only a moment before Dickson Fulbright, the owner, came out of the storeroom with a warm smile and greeting. A short, middle-aged man with a shiny bald head, bushy mustache, and pince-nez glasses, Mr. Fulbright had been a fixture in Muddy Creek for decades. He’d opened up the store with his wife. She passed away nearly six years earlier after losing a bout with pneumonia. Well respected by the entire town, Mr. Fulbright, a very neat man, obsessively wiped his hands on his apron.

“Did you make the sale?” he asked.

“Yep,” Tate said matter-of-factly. It bothered him that everyone in the town knew everyone else’s business, but he’d never known it to be any other way.

Tate set Emily on the long counter, where she smiled up at the grocer. She kicked her little legs out in front of her, the heels of her small shoes lightly hitting the counter’s paneling.

“How are you, young miss?” Mr. Fulbright asked, wiping his hands against his snow-white apron. Tate couldn’t remember seeing him without the apron. He wondered if the man even wore it to bed.

“Daddy brought me a doll that says ‘Ma-ma. ’ Her eyes close, and she’s got a pink dress just like mine!”

“Now, I’ve seen a lot of things, but I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a doll that closes its eyes.” Mr. Fulbright winked at Tate.

“I’ll bring her next time,” Emily said.

“You do that.” Mr. Fulbright reached into a jar on the counter and handed Emily a stick of peppermint candy. Emily looked at her daddy, accepted the candy, and said, “Thank you.”

“Don’t open it until we are on the way home,” Tate cautioned. “You’ll be sticky clear up to your elbows.”

After Tate had handed the grocer the list Yelena had given him, he scanned the headlines on the stack of newspapers lying on the counter. Mr. Fulbright began to fill the order.

Alpine “Lonestar” Gazette

August 1, 1933

Nazis Pass Law to Purify German Race

Adolf Hitler announced a new program to weed out Germans who are less than perfect. Doctors will sterilize them for the glory of the Reich.

Amelia Earhart Breaks Record

Amelia Earhart flies from Los Angeles, California, to Newark, New Jersey, in 17 hours 17 minutes.

Tate shook his head.
What is the world coming to? This guy Hitler is going to mess around and cause a world war.

Seeing that Mr. Fulbright had not filled his order, he picked up Emily. “I’ll be back in half an hour.”

The grocer nodded, reached up to the shelf behind him, and brought down a can of baking powder.

Tate walked back to the truck, perspiring in the hot sun. He noticed that the chickens had given up their pecking and headed for cooler surroundings. Smart chickens. He got into the vehicle, rounded the corner, and drove into the alley behind the mercantile. At the end of the block, he came to a stop in front of the weathered building that housed the feedstore.

“I’ll be right back, and we’ll go to the post office,” he said to Emily as he leaned in the open passenger’s window. She nodded her head absentmindedly as she twirled the candy stick and watched the stripes go around it.

Tate returned to the truck with a bag of oats on each shoulder, dropped the bags into the back of the pickup, and slid behind the wheel. Emily glanced up at her father with one end of the candy stick stuck into her mouth.

“Hey, now. If you’re all sticky, you can’t go into the post office.”

“I won’t get sticky,” she mumbled past the candy.

“Put the paper back on the candy. And wait until we’re headed home.”

Emily silently obeyed but held the candy stick tightly in her hand. She ran her tongue over her lips, savoring every bit of peppermint goodness.

Tate pulled the truck to a stop in front of the post office, got out, and reached for Emily. At the door, he paused and held it open for a young woman and a small boy. The woman smiled, but the boy never even glanced up; his head was bent down as he worked on a candy stick. Emily stared at him. Tate tipped his hat and went inside.

“Glad you’re back, Tate,” Leroy Gaines, the town postmaster, called out from behind a barred cage. He wore a visor cap and bow tie. The sleeves of his shirt were held in place with garters. Wide suspenders extended from his pants over his ample belly to his broad shoulders. The air in the post office was hot, and rivers of sweat poured down the man’s jocular cheeks. Leroy didn’t seem to mind as he grinned from ear to ear. He bounced up out of his seat, pulled three envelopes out of a cubbyhole, and slapped them down on the counter.

“Thanks, Leroy.” Tate scooped the letters up and glanced at them. There was one from the government and two from relatives who had moved to the West Coast. None to Emily from her mother. He put the letters in his pocket.

BOOK: Train From Marietta
6.26Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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