Tuesday, December 03, 2019

Poplar Mountain Part 52 by Dellani Oakes


The men head to the bank in the morning, to check out Big Earl's safe deposit box.

"Just let me know when you've finished. I'll put the box right back."
"Thanks, Mr. Kelly," Will said.
He waited for the door to click shut before opening the box. He lifted the lid and put his hand inside. He brought out a stack of papers tied with another piece of the same red ribbon as was on the key. He untied them, handing half to Luke. There were chairs in the room, so they sat down and looked through the stacks.
Most of the items were nothing special. There were a few receipts for things like the plow he'd bought five years ago. He had various livestock papers were there. An official looking envelope caught Luke's eye as he shuffled through his stack. Taking it out, he sent the other items down and removed the paper from its envelope. The address was typed and the return address was printed on the left hand corner. Inside, the official state seal graced the letterhead. Thinking it looked important, Luke unfolded the paper.
"Dear Mr. Henry," Luke read quietly. "Enclosed you will find a full report from our independent firm. You were right in thinking there were resources under your feet, Mr. Henry. Please see the report to verify our findings. Sincerely Layton Haws, Geology Society of Kentucky."
The accompanying sheet was full of words and numbers he couldn't interpret. Then one word hopped off the page at him—coal. Tugging Will's sleeve, he showed it to his brother.
"What the hell? Luke, look at the date on this. He got it the day before he died."
"No wonder he was so antsy. This is what he meant when he talked so crazy at the party. He meant this—this is his payout."
"You suppose he was gonna sell to a coal mine?"
"I dunno, Will. There ain't any love lost between him and Mr. Bertram. Them two hate each other. But I can't see him tearing up the family land. That's been in his family since time began."
"He'd do it if he thought it would make things right for Mama. He's always been sorry he couldn't provide better for the family. Reckon he thought he'd found a way."
"This is what got him kilt," Luke whispered. "This right here is the reason our daddy's dead."
Will paled. "Now you're talkin' crazy, Luke. No body killed him. He got drunk and fell in the creek."
"If that's so, why did someone try to break into the girls' dorm?"
"You don't suppose they think the girls know something?"
"Nope, but wouldn't they make damn fine leverage if they wanted us to give them this information?"
"Jesus, Luke!" Will smacked his forehead. "Kidnapping? Of our womenfolk?"
Luke lowered his voice to a whisper. "And I reckon our sheriff is in on it. All those questions he's been asking, staying late at the office and scared as hell that we called instead of someone else."
Will ran his hands through his hair. "You ain't kiddin'. You really believe that."
"I do. Makes a body wonder who else knows and is after wantin' this information."
"We got to call that fella in the letter," Will replied. "And we need to figure out a way to protect our family. What if next time, the fellas bring guns instead of a baseball bat? We ain't even safe here. Folks saw us in town. They're gonna talk."
"And the girls went back to school." It was Luke's turn to go pale.
"They can't grab 'em in broad daylight."
"They can if it's Mr. Bertram and his buddies."
"I can't imagine Bert kidnappin' anyone," Will tried to sound confident. "Aw, hell, Luke. I can imagine it."
"Safest place for this is right here," Luke said. "Lemme get that number." He scribbled a phone number on a scrap of paper in his pocket. He added the address. "Or, maybe we need to drive up and see him."
"That's all the way to Lexington," Will protested. "That's a half day's drive at least. Even if we started now, we'd not be back until after dark. The girls won't be safe."
"Then we take them with us. Drive up this afternoon, spend the night and see that Mr. Haws in the morning."
"I got a better idea. We drive up to Cumberland or some such, find us a pay phone and make that call," Will said.
"Why go all that way?"
"You want the whole town to know our business? Old Louisa Michelson is such a gossip, the whole county would know. Hell, they'd know as far south as Knoxville."
Will laughed at his brother, though he saw the wisdom of it. "Okay. Then let's do that. And if we have to, we'll plan a trip tomorrow up to Lexington, and take the girls with us."
That matter agreed on, they put everything back in the box and asked Mr. Kelly put it away.
"You find all you needed?"
Will had kept out a few papers on a cow that had died of milk fever. "Sure nuf, Mr. Kelly. Got all we need right here." He waved the pages nearly under the man's nose.
© 2019 Dellani Oakes


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