Would the sins from a distant and violent past condemn him in court? Blood Land. Chapter 5

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A VG Serial: Blood Land

Chapter 5

The short conversation with Beulah Jorgensen squatted on his brain like a toad. Hanson sat on the edge of the hotel bed, a cable news channel humming in the background. He tried to call Wendy when he returned from the courthouse, but she either was out of range or was not answering. At around eight o’clock, she slipped through the door.

“Where have you been?” Hanson asked.

“I had dinner with a high school friend. I told you twice yesterday, and once today. When you were getting ready to leave for court.”

“Right,” Hanson said. Jorgensen’s revelation that there was a history between Ty and Wendy that played well for the prosecution perplexed him. He was also annoyed that neither his client, nor his girlfriend, had found it relevant to share said history with the lawyer tasked with saving the man’s life.

“A curmudgeonly little bird told me today that there is a ‘history’ between you and your uncle Ty,” Hanson said.

“Of course we have history,” Wendy said. “He’s my uncle.”

“I neglected to expand. I believe one might call it a violent history.”

Wendy sat heavily on the bed, next to Hanson. “Oh,” she said.

“I appreciate the candor, though I’d hoped for a less-incriminating response. Seeing that I will be trying to keep your uncle from a lethal injection starting Monday.”

“It was a long ways back. I didn’t think it would matter,” Wendy said.

“Jorgensen is calling you as a witness for the prosecution. To show Ty’s propensity toward violence.”

Wendy closed her eyes and lay down on her back. “When I was sixteen, my dad and I started to disagree a lot. We had some pretty bad arguments. Uncle Ty broke one up, that’s all that happened.”

“Wendy, if that was all that happened, Beulah Jorgensen would not be planning to call you to the stand.”

“Ty took a swing at my dad. He missed. Gave me one hell of a shiner.”

“Shit,” Hanson said. “Charges?”

“It was mandatory because I was a minor. But the sheriff testified that it was an accident. My dad said that he and Ty were fighting.”

“Which wasn’t the whole truth,” Hanson said.

“It was enough of the truth,” Wendy said.

“Had Ty been drinking?”

“Ty was always drinking. So was my father.”

“What happened in court?”

“The attorney defending Ty asked for a trial by judge. Figured the sheriff testifying would hold more sway on another member of the justice machine. He was right. The judge threw the case out.”

“And Beulah Jorgensen?”

“She was just starting out in the City Attorney’s office. It was one of her first cases, I think.”

“Perfect,” Hanson said.

“Sorry,” Wendy said. “I really didn’t think it mattered, since he was acquitted. Pretty stupid.”

“Hopefully it won’t matter much. She can’t go after you too hard. One, you were the victim in the previous case. A child to boot. Second, no conviction. Guessing we won’t have the sheriff’s kind remembrance of the events in question, though.”

“Pruett wouldn’t lie,” she said.

“He’s not my biggest fan.”

“What reason is that?” she said.

“Come on, Wendy. I’m closer to his age than yours.”

“Pruett has his problems,” Wendy said. “But he looks out for my happiness.”

“He pulled me over when I first got into town. Did you know that?”

* * *

J.W. Hanson had been leaving the Wooden Boot after one draft beer and a few questions directed at the bartender and a couple of the regulars. Halfway to his hotel, blue and red lights appeared in his rear view mirror. He pulled over and a man who looked like a walking oak tree got out of the patrol car, donned a proper western hat, and walked toward the professor’s Toyota Prius.

“License, registration, proof of insurance, sir,” the big man said, leaning down, and a bit into the window.

“No problem, officer,” Hanson said, handing over the documents.

“I work for the Sheriff’s department, Mr. Hanson,” Pruett said, looking at the license and other papers. “Not an officer of anything I know of.”

“Sorry about that,” Hanson said.

“Your insurance card has lapsed, Mr. Hanson. Last week.”

“Guess I forgot to put the new card in my wallet. You can call my agent—I’m still covered, I assure you.”

“I don’t doubt it,” Pruett said. He directed the beam of his flashlight into Hanson’s eyes. “Wind River’s a nice place, Professor. It stays that way because the rules get followed.”

He handed the license and laminated card back. “Big trial coming up. Hope for Ty McIntyre’s sake you don’t let his insurance lapse.”

“Message received, Sheriff.”

“No message, Professor. Just get your new card.”

* * *

“You should have told me,” Wendy said. “Pulling you over is a load of bullshit.”

“Easy, lady. Nothing happened. He was just pissing across the bow of my boat.”

“It still doesn’t mean he won’t tell the truth,” she said.

“The evidence suggests your uncle Ty killed your mother—the man’s wife. I’m not expecting any flattering testimony from a witness like that. I’d be a fool.

 ***

BOOZE HAD him by the balls. Pruett knew it. His conscience told him to ignore the negative; that circumstances allowed him to make significant concessions. But there wasn’t much denying the reality that the bitch was back. Pruett only too gladly let her right through the front door, though the one thing he’d forgotten was that her grip rivaled any vise he ever owned.

Reaching rock bottom requires a devastating personal journey, no matter the person; bottom being as far down as a man or woman can go. Alcohol does not smooth the stones, illuminate the path, or sooth the senses—at least not for long. Rather, it catalyzes the horrors, accelerates the downward journey—like pulling the trapdoor on the gallows. One is enticed into believing alcohol dulls the nerves when it ultimately only intensifies the pain.

Pruett gave up drinking years before—twelve years, two months, and a handful of days. Back then the reason was simple; clearer than anything had been for a long, long time: he stopped because his wife asked him to stop.

Should he have stopped before?

Did his health ultimately depend upon his stopping?

Was his career, his family—his honor at stake?

Yes to all.

But being aware and being capable were two different things. One of the many challenges of the addict is the paralyzing terror resiliency faces when eclipsed by the towering shadow of NEED.

Pruett felt it every morning when he climbed stiffly out of bed; that clawing desire for the next drink. He heard it from around every bend, flying on the very wind: the whispery promise of release.

Whenever he was drinking, the bottle held full sway over Pruett; a flagon of demons that manipulated his thoughts, the beasts scrambling constantly to gain further purchase on the craggy slopes of conscience and morality.

But after thirty-two years together, after Pruett’s awful betrayal, Bethy sat him down, looked him in the eye, and required something of him. All the other years, from the first to the last—every decision that impacted their lives: each belonged to him. But this one thing—this one impossible thing—she wanted. And so it was actually not that hard for him to do.

After such a long hiatus, one might think it hard to return to such a low point, but the sleazy lie of a drink fixing what ailed him returned too easily. It seeped into every crack and fissure in his soul, feeling like a smoky-keg fire, soothing the aching joints of his heart. Soon enough, he knew, the warm liquid salve would cool, freeze, and expand, bursting the façade of his healing into a billion dead, sparkling pieces.

The demons returned too, happily resuming their elevated position above his will. Like snipers in the trees bordering his mind, they aimed their weapons, demanding that he do things that, until then, only came to him in nightmares; evil thoughts that now breached the innocent light of day.

Chapters of the serial are published Monday through Saturday.

You can learn more about R. S. Guthrie’s novels on his Amazon Author’s Page.

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