Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Poplar Mountain Part 56 by Dellani Oakes


Rachel tells the women, who McCleary is, and why Big Earl contacted him. The men arrive at the meeting place, only to find that it's an ambush.
"That's far enough," Sheriff Squires said from behind them. "Reckon I'll take them pretty guns off ya."
Lucius and Willem raised their hands slowly. Two men came up to them, snatching the guns from their belts. One of them sported a bruised face, the other held his arm as if it hurt.
"You met my friends, Hoop and Turner," Squires said with a grin.
"You gave me twenty-six stitches," Hoop said, glaring at Will. "Cut me to the bone, you bastard."
Will smirked. "Only twenty-six? Count yourself lucky I didn't gut you."
"Now, boys. Ain't no reason to fight. We're gonna sit down civil like and have us a chat."
"Nothing to chat about," Lucius replied.
"I beg to differ. We got us a lot to talk about. Life, death and coal. Sound about right?" He cast about to his men for confirmation.
Nodding, the men chuckled nastily.
"You caused me no end of bother," Squires said. "Just like your daddy. He was one stubborn hillbilly. I'm hopin' you boys can see reason."
"That ain't a Henry strong suit," Will replied. "Now, pure cussedness, that's a Henry through and through."
Squires threw his head back, a barking laugh coming from his mouth. "That's the god's truth," he declared.
"How'd you know where we'd be?" Lucius asked.
"Why, my good buddy, Tim McCleary, told me."
The Henry boys frowned. McCleary hadn't sounded like a turncoat over the phone.
"Course, it took some persuading, but he finally told me everything." He gestured to something that looked like a pile of rags.
The object moved feebly, groaning. With a sickening lurch, the men realized it was Tim McCleary.
"You didn't think your little game of cat and mouse was gonna throw me off your scent, did you? I got eyes and ears everywhere, boys. Me and God, like this." He crossed his fingers. "Gotta give you points for style, heading up to Cumberland that way. Why, that was pure genius. Must have been Lucius' idea."
"Actually, it was mine," Will said.
"Well, sir, that's a shocker. Goes to show every man can have himself a real good day, from time to time. Tie 'em up, fellers, and put 'em in the truck. We got to have a chat with the Widder Henry. Reckon she'll sign anything we wave at her if we got her two oldest boys in custody. We got enough to arrest you. Seeing how you assaulted two deputies in pursuit of their duty and damn near beat that old boy to death." He nodded at Timothy McCleary. "Hit's a shame. I always liked you boys. Your daddy was one mean, old son of a bitch...."
"'Preciate it if you didn't insult my grandmother like that," Lucius said calmly. "She's a fine, godfearing lady. You got no call—"
Sheriff Squires slapped Luke's cheek with the back of his hand. Luke's head snapped to the side and he felt a burst of blood in his mouth. Squires shook his hand, wincing.
"Boy, you got a hard head."
Lucius spit blood on the sheriff's shoe. His glare was enough to make the other men step back. Squires looked at the blood, grinning nastily. He rubbed it on the grass.
"That wasn't nice." He hauled back to smack Lucius again, then thought better of it. "Bring them," he growled.
Hoop and Turner grabbed Luke and Will, dragging them to Will's truck. They tied their hands and loaded the Henry men into the bed, climbing in with them. Squires got behind the wheel with a fourth man beside him. Hoop and Turner went back for Tim McCleary's limp body and unceremoniously threw it into the bed of the truck. A low moan rose from his crumpled form, but nothing more.
The truck bumped down the mountain, drawing ever nearer to the Henry house. Willem and Lucius grew more worried the closer they got. Their mother, siblings and the women they loved were in that house. They'd tried so hard to keep trouble away, now they were bringing it right to their front door. Lucius had never been so happy for a dark night. Though the moon was on the wane, heavy clouds covered it. Wind picked up, howling through the trees.
Hoop shuddered, whispering about ghosts. Luke smiled as he wiggled his hands. In their rush to tie up the brothers, Hoop and Turner hadn't done a very good job. Had Luke been the one doing the trussing, he'd have passed rope between the hands. It hadn't occurred to the sheriff's henchmen. Luke could feel Will's arm moving as he tried to get some slack in the biting hemp.
The truck's motor strained on the last slope descending toward the Henry property. The sheriff cursed, down shifting to a lower gear. Will winced when he heard the gears grind. His truck was precious to him. Having someone other than family drive it, irked. It didn't keep him from working at his bonds. He, too, was grateful for a dark night. The fact that their captors weren't watching them carefully, was decidedly a plus. If Squires and his flunkies thought that the Henry boys were subdued by mere lengths of rope, they had another think coming.
© 2019 Dellani Oakes

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