Monday, July 21, 2014

Chapter Thirty

I decided to take a risk.  "Since Dr. Cummins is such a deeply convicted pacifist, his mind likely does not automatically consider violence as a possibility, especially not when there is already such a handy culprit to blame.  The plague.  The symptoms ... I was not here which is one of the reasons I need to speak to Marta."

"Carefully.  This is not something that should be gossiped about."

"One Marta does not gossip and two I am not daft.  I am here to put the below stairs in order, not to make things worse."  He nodded his head in acceptance and I continued.  "It comes back to medicine once again."

"I've already told you that John would never ..."

"And I believe you.  However, if he is a pacifist he may exhibit a certain naivet√© that allows him to be used ... or blinded."

"In what way?"

"You know what I already suspect Mrs. Kinsey of."

"Inhibiting the recovery of certain of the staff.  Widow you must admit that that is conjecture and extremely ... hmm ... well it sounds ..."

"Yes, yes I know.  Believe me Sheriff I do know exactly how I sound.  It is being back in this place.  There is an ancient saying that 'it isn't paranoia if they really are out to get you.'  You'll find out, or maybe you are simply so used to all this politicking that you do not see it for what it is any longer.  As for the problem as I see it, it is such a subtle thing and a poison would have to be very slow acting.  So perhaps not a poison outright but a medicine that interferes and causes the opposite reaction you wish to create in your patient."

"So what does this ... wait, are you truly insisting on saying that perhaps certain of the plague victims were poisoned ... uh ... given the incorrect medication?"

I shrugged.

He sighed.  "Yes, I suppose I must put that under the column of possibilities now."  He brought his fist down on his desk.  "Damnation.  This on top of what we already suspect and no way to tell if one dovetails with the other."  He sighed.  "And now to return to the reason I called you in here before."

"What do you need to know?  You seem to have it all figured out."

He snorted.  "If I had it all figured out we would not be in this fix.  In point of fact I told you the truth about that box of keys."

"Where did the box of keys come from?"

"The former Sheriff had them hidden within his desk in a locking compartment. I found them when I was cleaning it out.  How much did you know about Ceena and Tonya?"

"I don't think much more than I've already spoken to you about.  There are other things ... all of their ..."  I stopped and grew quiet in concentration.  "All of their children died young."

"Yes.  Probably due to a weakness they inherited from their father's addiction."

"But ... but wait.  Do you know what the duration of the addiction was?"

"Several years at least ... ten or so given strange entries in the bookkeeping."

"Then it doesn't make sense that it was the cause of the problems ..."

I must have been concentrating on chasing the thought that had just popped into my head that the Sheriff couldn't catch my attention.  "You're beginning to disappear into the fog Widow."

I held up one finger trying to remember all I knew.  "Blast!  I'll need to find the family genealogy ... I think they are on the book case in Ceena's bedchamber."

"And why exactly are you suddenly frothing at the mouth over genealogies?"

Trying to speak plainly I said, "If we were operating under the assumption that my husband's addiction is what caused his childless state then I am sorry, that is not correct.  He was ... you know I don't even know how old he was.  But I do know that Ceena and Tonya came to him as brides when there were about the age I am now and Ceena had been married to him for 25 years and Tonya 24 at the time of his death.  It has been several years since either had become pregnant.  And the one son that I told you would be several years older than the current Guardian had he lived.  And Ceena's son would have been about your age."

"Ceena had a son?"

"She had three and a couple of daughters.  None of them lived to be older than five.  Tonya had one son and two daughters.  All three died in infancy.  That doesn't count the miscarriages they had."

He was scribbling and going through a book he had jerked down from his book case.

"If you can't treat her as a sister wife then treat her as the daughter neither of you could manage to give me."

The Sheriff said, "What?"

"It is something my husband once said in anger to Ceena and Tonya.  The fight that time was terrible.  My husband may have been old but he was still robust and could bellow like a buffalo herder.  And be as violent as that animal as well.  Stomp and snort ... but he never hit, I must confess he never once hit."

"But his words were enough to draw blood."

I glanced up and then back down when I saw compassion on the Sheriff's face.  "That is not what we are discussing, only his ability, or lack of, to begat heirs.  An extremely important function of both The Linder and the Guardian."

The Sheriff nodded.  "Agreed.  Do you think this is an issue of inheritance?  From a woman's point of view I mean."

"I don't know what to think at this point.  But ... perhaps ... no, this is insane.  I don't know if I can even say this.  I need time to think.  I'm tired and ... and this ..."

"Then you shall have your time.  But not too much of it Widow.  I feel as if the Reaper is standing over Tomas and as long as their is breath in my body I'll do all in my power to protect him."

I looked back at him and saw how serious he was.  "Give me tonight to rest and think ... to ask a few gentle questions of Marta."

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