Thursday, November 07, 2019

Poplar Mountain Part 46 by Dellani Oakes


Will tells Luke that he and Patty made love on Luke's bed. Luke isn't sure whether to believe him or not.

"Sorry. Next time, I promise to use my bed."
"Best not be a next time or you're gonna have to marry that girl early."
"Early or later, don't matter to me."
"It'd matter if her daddy shoots you."
"He don't own a gun. I asked."
Lucius chuckled, shaking his head. "Kill ya with his bare hands, like as not."
"Naw, he's a preacher." Will gasped. "Oh, hell, Luke. He's a preacher! Holy God, I'm goin' to hell."
Lucius was still laughing ten minutes later. Willem put his pillow over his head, rolled away from his brother and went to sleep.

The next morning, the men woke early and drove up to the family home to start chores. They were surprised and pleased to see their male cousins and uncles all pitching in to do the work. None of them would let Luke help.
"You take care of your hand or Doc will have our hides," his brother Samuel said. "Ma too, for that matter. We got this. You go talk to Ma."
Lucius went to the house while Willem joined the other men to do chores. He found his mother surrounded by women. They were cooking a massive breakfast for the men to eat when they were done. Among the crowd he spotted Sheriff Edward Squires and his deputy. The sheriff waved a hand at Lucius, inviting him over. The younger man was soon at the sheriff's side.
"I heard there was some excitement down your way last night."
"How the hell would you know that when I ain't even told you yet?"
"Word gets around." The sheriff shrugged.
"What word? We ain't told a soul."
"I'm talking about the fire. What are you talking about?"
Lucius told him about someone breaking in and Dollie chasing him.
"Did she see him?" The sheriff's brow furrowed.
"Not really. Said he was a big man—but to Dollie, that's everyone." He chuckled, shaking his head.
The sheriff didn't laugh along with him. "That's pretty serious, Luke. Those two girls there all by themselves. Worries me some. Is there anyplace else they could stay?"
"Not really. But me and Will can stay awhile longer. We're in one of the dormitory rooms and pretty comfy. You really think they're in danger?"
"Strange man breaks into a place with two single women. Yeah, I think there's a problem. You boys take some things and move on in there for a spell. I'd send a man up, but I ain't got one to spare. Not with all this mess." He sighed, ruffing his thinning hair.
"Any idea who that man was in the shed?"
"Nope. All the local men are accounted for."
"It's for sure a man?"
"Yup. Doc Starbuck had a look and was able to tell. Something about the pelvis. I dunno. Can't tell much more. The fire took out most of our clues and the water and dirt took the rest. We know he's a man and probably not local. Other than that, no one knows for sure. The state police are sending a coroner to do autopsies of him—and your daddy."
"Thought we'd buried him."
"State police asked us not to. Me and the boys had to pull him out the hole once y'all had gone."
Lucius shuddered. "Does Mama know?"
"Nope. I was hoping to see you or Will. I need permission...."
"If it helps catch the man who took my mother's husband from her, you do what needs doing."
Squires patted Lucius' shoulder. "I know you weren't close to your daddy, Luke. Me and my old man got along 'bout as well as you and Earl. But he's still your daddy. We'll try and bring him justice. Ain't nobody deserves to end like he did."
Lucius nodded. "You need me to sign something?"
"I do." Squires pulled out a folded paper and handed Luke a fountain pen. "Did your daddy have a will?"
"I don't know," Lucius replied, puzzled by the question. "Mama might know. He was gonna leave the land to Willem, but he's moved to town. Guess it falls on me to tend it. Don't rightly know the way of things. Why?"
Squires shook his head, shrugging. "Curious is all."
Lucius read quickly through the paper he'd been handed. Some of it he didn't understand, but he could tell it was a consent form for a second autopsy to be conducted by the State Police. He sighed and dated as instructed at the bottom. Handing the paper back to the sheriff, he tried to smile.
"If you find out about that will...."
"Reckon Mama knows. I'll ask her later. Right now, ain't gonna trouble her. Lady just lost the man she loved," Lucius said rather forcefully. "It don't matter, Ed. We got this under control."
© 2019 Dellani Oakes

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