Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Chapter Fifty-Two

The Sheriff gritted his teeth and said, "There was another man?!"

"He was going to shoot Nanny ... or one of the other animals.  I couldn't just stand there and let that happen!"

He pinched the bridge of his nose and groaned.  "Leeda.  I swear by every last one of the saints that if you keep this up I am going to be forced to set a watcher on you."

Outraged at even the idea I snapped, "Excuse me?!"

Sounding regretful he said, "It won't be for your own good but for mine.  Do you realize how uncivilized those Borderland savages can be?!  What if you had missed and he turned that rifle on you?!  Or worse?!"

"He didn't and stop yelling.  What did you expect me to do?  Throw up my hands and squeal help, help there's a bad man?  What did you give me my fang back for if not to use it?"

"That is not the point."

"Yes, it is," I contradicted.  "Now do stop having palpitations and let us be done with this."

I finished the tale and he looked at me suspiciously.  "You've left nothing out?"

In exasperation I asked, "Why should I?  I've done nothing wrong and you'd only find out afterwards and then add that to the sum you already seem to be counting up."

The Sheriff shook his head.  "I don't know whether to go to the church and pray or cross this table and shake you.  Do you ... you just ... now listen here ..."

Ignoring his discombobulated speech I told him, "You may dictate if you wish but I have to say in all honesty I will likely do whatever is necessary if faced with such a scenario again.  You may wish to keep the troubles from finding me.  I may wish to not have the troubles find me.  But in my experience that has never stopped the troubles from finding me and as such it is my duty to behave like something other than a dithering idiot.  Da and Ma taught me to take care of myself early on because we lived in the middle of the forest and shared the space with things that would just as soon eat me as look at me.  My grandparents cabin - the one you found me living in - wasn't quite so far into the trees as the one I grew up in but it still wasn't unusual for me to have to deal with bears, buffalos, forest cats, monkeys, and other beasties on occasion."

"Wait.  Did you say monkeys?"

"Yes and a bothersome bunch of demon spawn they were.  The same plague that took my family knocked their numbers far back but they still make themselves known now and again."

He shook his head.  "I thought Turner Waverly was pulling my leg when he said to beware of them."

"Trust me, they are worth being beware of."

"Very well but seriously Leeda, avoid this type of thing when you can.  What am I saying?!  I don't want this to ever happen again.  I won't tolerate it.  Tomas wasn't pulling a prank when he said I turned inside out to find you'd been hauled off."

I said, "Speaking of, were you able to locate the lack wit?"

"Tomas or your kidnapper?"

"You are revealing your Nealy side again," I told him mildly.

The Sheriff shrugged and leaned back in the chair he sat in, "You think your kidnapper a lack wit?"

"Yes.  No self-respecting Woodsman would ever assume a woman was unable to defend herself and leave his back unprotected like that.  We are taught from the cradle on how important it is that our menfolk know we can defend ourselves so that they can go off and do their work without the worry of our care eating their guts."

The Sheriff blinked.  "I ... suppose that is one way of looking at it."  He cleared his throat then continued.  "As for catching the man in question, yes I did.  Being sewn up by a rather less than charitable female that smelled of the same family as he.  After my service in the Guard I am far from sensitive but I must admit the smell of all of them shoved into that small back room was enough to cause me to want to gag.  I consider his arrest a kindness as at least he will receive proper medical care and not have to worry about sepsis in his a ... er ... buttock."

"If he does get it he'll get no sympathy from me.  I'm not disposed to being gentle with the criminal set.  What they'll do once they'll do twice or more if allowed to get away with it the first time."

"Bloodthirsty Woodsman are you?" he asked sarcastically.

Ignoring his tone I responded, "Woodsman's daughter and no, I'm not bloodthirsty but rather realistic.  You've become very civilized here in this part of the region, particularly here around Linderhall and Little Linderton, but in the outlying towns, especially those like Harper and Old Paduck that lie close to the Border, we can't afford the condition.  Nip trouble in the bud.  If you can't nip it before it happens, squash the life out of it after it does.  That is one of the things about Rom's father that I never understood.  He used to be as fierce in that issue as his father and grandfather before him ... even back to when the Waverly served the Harpers before we turned away from the Mayorship ... but lately it seems he's been more lenient.  It made some people talk ... and worry.  He'd gotten fussy and ... and fancy of late."

"Well Turner doesn't appear to be like that at all.  He said he'd give hard labor if he could but that some actions could only be met with terminal consequences."

"Yes, that is the way Harper has always been.  Our people don't seem to understand much else.  My husband cursed the trait one moment and then praised it the next depending on his mood or how it interfered with whatever politicking he was doing. The people of such towns may have a civilized outer layer but scratch that off and they would probably be unrecognizable from those that built the walls in the days following the chaos of the Destruction."

The Sheriff nodded.  "Saw a lot of that in the Guard myself.  It is one of the things that is so hard to explain to Tomas and James.  They're good men as our species goes but they've too little experience in some areas they'd do better to have experience in.  But of course they see themselves as older and therefore somehow more experienced than me.  It is a difficult dynamic to overcome.  Still, they are more realistic than Father was so there's that."

"Does it make your job difficult?"

"At times but we aren't here to speak of me so stop distracting."

"Very well then.  You have my deposition and even have it duplicated.  Now will you explain why you say that my incident was no random event and how you come to that conclusion?"

"Hmmm.  To do that ..."  He looked at me and I could see that he was becoming much more serious.  "Leeda, I do not wish to anger you or alarm you but what you must understand is that Tomas has always taken his duty very seriously even as a boy ... and sometimes he is ... hmmm ... too serious about it or perhaps I should say intent upon doing it.  And now that he is both The Linder and The Guardian he feels his duty even more strongly."

Suspiciously I asked, "Does this have anything to do with my husband's journal?"

"Not solely but some of the information contained in those journals would have ... let us say that your intelligence would have led you to realize that the games your hu ... the former Guardian played were very deep.  You would also realize that he had planned to marry you long before he was presented with the opportunity."

"The Linder said something similar but I hardly know how that could be possible.  I was but fourteen.  The marriage arranged between Rom and Fan was sudden and ...  Why are you looking like that?"

The Sheriff wiped his mouth.  "Leeda, this must not leave this room.  You must not - under any circumstances - discuss this issue with anyone.  Don't even discuss it with me unless you are certain no one else is about.  Not even ..."

The way he stopped talking I realized something.  "Are you saying that you ... that you are breaking a confidence to tell me this?"

"Not ... well ... in a manner of speaking.  I was told to use my best judgment and that is what I am doing.  It is not my fault if Tomas and James make the assumption that I will abide by their judgment in this matter."

"Oh ... oh you ..."

"Don't think on it and let us continue now that I've started.  Just remember, once you have this knowledge you ... you hold a great deal of power."

Quietly I told him, "I understand."


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