Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Chapter Fifty

"I could smell the garlic as it wafted down the path."

I looked to the closed kitchen door and shook my head at the voice that was coming through it.

"It is late Sheriff."

"So you won't open the door?" he wheedled.

Shaking my head I lifted the latch on the top half and opened it a small ways.  "Don't you have reports or something calling your name?"

In the dim light of the porch lamp I had turned on I saw him lift a secretarial satchel.  "Actually I haven't taken a full deposition from you so I can't finish my reports yet."  Then he lifted the other hand and said, "Besides I come baring gifts ... ice for the cooler."

"Good heavens, give it here before it completely melts."

"Just open the door and I'll carry it in."

"Botheration you are persistent."

"Yes ... yes I am," with a tired grin.

I let him in and said, "People will talk."

"Where's the girl that was assigned here?"

"She's helping Kate Cummins who is hosting a ladies' brunch tomorrow for those in Linderhall and several from the neighborhood.  She seemed quite frazzled by the idea when we crossed paths today."

"You aren't going?"

"No.  Why would I?" I replied in surprise.

He looked at me and shook his head.  "You really don't consider yourself part of the family do you?"

"I've explained this before ... here, take this cloth and wipe up all those drips before they stain the floor ... we are only distantly connected," I told him as I placed the block of ice in my cupboard cooler just in time to see the block of ice from yesterday offer up its last chip and fall through the screen it sat on. "And to me politics does not a family make."

Turning back to the Sheriff I asked, "Can you forego the formality of the library and set your satchel at the table?  This soup is almost ready to go into the saving jars and then back into the sealing pot for processing.  And I hope you have room for a mug of it for this is what I want you to eat to regain your strength."

"You've been listening to April.  Not a damn thing wrong with my strength."

"Don't pout.  My statement was not meant to be derogatory.  I refer to your health.  If you insist upon working at all hours in all weather before you are completely recovered then you will need to make concessions in other areas."

"So you don't expect me to sit on the porch and tat lace?"

With complete honesty I told him, "I doubt you could be forced to do so under pain of torture so I would be foolish to even try much less expect it of you."

"True," he said as he took things out of his satchel and set them upon the table and I ladled a mug of garlicky green broth into a mug.

I turned back around and asked, "What on earth is that?  Is ... by the saints ... is that a duplication machine?!"

"Aye.  I let the young man I had as secretary go after I found out he was a connection to Kinsey ... turns out he was one of those bastard children you found out about."

I pulled out a bench and sat down slowly.

"Widow?  Leeda?"

"What?  Oh ... sorry.  I really didn't mean to set it from my mind.  Just ..."

"Here now.  I've upset you.  Bad form."

I looked at him and straightened my spine.  "Do not be ridiculous.  And stop sounding like that silly young man.  Bad form indeed.  Please talk like you have some sense and are a member of the human species and not some popinjay posey ..."

The Sheriff's laughter cut me off.  "There's my fiesty widow.  Seriously Leeda, I did not mean to upset you.  You've had a long day and I'm about to make it longer."

"That does not sound at all promising."

"I'm afraid it isn't my Dear."

Abruptly I told him, "Don't."

"Excuse me?"

Through gritted teeth I said, "Don't call me ... that.  He did.  You are not saying it the same but ... just ... just don't."

All frivolity fled from the room and the Sheriff got a very serious look on his face.  "I've heard my brothers call you that several times and you did not object."

"That's them.  This is ... this is you.  It's different.  I do not wish to discuss how it is different, it simply is."

The Sheriff looked at me and then said quietly, "Yes, it is different.  And no, I do not think the time is right for that discussion either.  There are a great many undercurrents to be waded through, not to mention that I wish to speak again with your cousin before such a ... er ... discussion takes place."

I could barely swallow and felt like running.  It was nearly too much.  I hadn't yet decided to give into these foolish dreams that kept hinting at possibilities and here he was saying that he was thinking thoughts that may very well follow my own.

"Leeda ... don't be afraid.  Not of me.  I know that ... that your past will affect ... what may come between us.  But don't let it be because of fear."

Slowly I controlled my breathing and nodded.  "It isn't you I fear and that is as far as I can ... you know ... too much ... about ... about my private business ... I can't forget it ... can't pretend you don't know ..."

He gently placed his hand over mine.  "You asked me not to obssess on the age you married and were widowed at.  I'm now asking you not to obssess on me knowing ... of your circumstances during that period.  Let us simply move along slowly and both come to terms with the issues we face.  There's ... there's things you don't know and should.  Tomas and James want to ... protect you from the facts we've uncovered but while that may work for most of the other females I think it is a harebrained way to deal with you and April.  You've both faced too much, survived it and moved on, to be ... disrespected with too much protection."

I looked at him and then down at his hand then back at him.  He slowly removed his hand then stood up and took a few steps away from the table and faced the window looking out over the space that should be occupied by a kitchen garden but which currently was nothing more than my woodpile.  "It's one of the reasons why I've come.  This thing today, it ..."  He stopped and cleared his throat.  "Your attempted kidnap does not appear to be a random event but whether it was a crime of opportunity or whether the riot was an orchestrated event I am not prepared to say."

"Wasn't random?" I asked in confusion.  I swallowed and asked, "Would you please sit down and let us start at the beginning?  If you are going to grant me the confidence to be able to internalize what you've discovered and add it to the sum of my own knowledge then let us at least do it in something approaching comfort and rapport.  I have cookies."

The Sheriff gave a surprised bark of laughter.  "Cookies?"

"Yes, and you may have some after you finish your mug of broth."

He chuckled and whatever tension had entered the room had given us a reprieve ... or at least a temporary one.

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