He admitted it was the wrong blood that had been spilled. Blood Land.
May 2, 2013
A VG Serial: Blood Land
SHERIFF PRUETT awoke, not knowing where he was or quite remembering how he came to be lying on his side. Pain assaulted him from several angles, mostly bunched into his spine and twisting like a funnel cloud. He did not move right away—he was not sure he could or should. And as he lay there, the sharp cold of the night chewed through his uniform and jumpstarted his senses.
Disorientation drained from him slowly, replaced by a sick realization:
Ty had not killed him. The prisoner was now a fugitive—one with God knew how many hours head start. With a little luck, the trail of evidence Pruett left behind on McIntyre’s behalf might just keep the sheriff out of jail.
As Pruett tried to roll from his side on to his stomach, the pain seared him, racing up his back, spreading like tendrils through sinew and bone. When he finally got to his stomach, he did a pushup and tried to get his boots under him, but he only got one before the dizziness put him back down.
“Might want to stay down a bit,” Ty said, cracking the silence. He took a drag on a cigarette and blew the smoke into the black forest. “Hope you don’t mind, I snatched these from your truck up yonder.”
“Shit,” the sheriff said. “How long I been out?”
“An hour,” Ty said. “Maybe two.”
“You didn’t run?”
“No place to run from it, Sheriff. ‘Sides, I’ve had time to think—time with a thousand square miles of empty wilderness starin’ me in the face. Fightin’ you, that was all instinct. I ain’t never done nothin’ but fight people and things my whole life. Other kids. Honey, my ma. Bulls. Don’t matter; they all had me fight ‘em at one time or another.
Not now. Not after what I done. This time I’m paying the piper outright. No more debts owed to the house.”
The two sat in silence for a while.
“I’d have killed you,” Pruett said. “If I was able, I mean.”
“I should’ve let you,” Ty said. Then a mean laugh leaked from his lungs. “Jesus, Pruett, you couldn’t ever have handled me. Not in your best days.”
Pruett said nothing. Everything hurt—his conscience most of all.
“Didn’t know you smoked,” Ty said.
“I don’t,” Pruett said. “Melody, she can’t keep ‘em in her squad car, ‘case her boyfriend catches her in town for surprise lunches. She hides ‘em in my Suburban so she can sneak back to the courthouse every few hours.”
“Sounds like the lady has trust issues,” Ty said.
“We all have trust issues.”
“How we going to work this out, Sheriff?”
Pruett thought about it. Funny thing, the anger that consumed him before was gone. He felt stupid. Bethy would have hated what he’d done this night. “I guess that’s up to you, Ty.”
“Yeah, suppose so. Guessin’ if my lawyer got a bite of this he’d turn it into a pretty good mouthful.”
“Yep,” the sheriff said.
“Wouldn’t look too proper for you, though.”
“What I did was wrong. I’ll take my lumps,” Pruett said.
“Nah,” Ty said, standing up and offering the sheriff a hand. “It’s done. I told you, I ain’t runnin’ from this. Pretty much gave up that notion when I decided to stop off at the Willow Saloon. Knew you’d catch me there, Pruett.”
* * *
Back at the parking lot, Ty lit another.
“Guess I better drive my truck back down. We can play it all out the way you had it. ‘Cept you caught me ‘stead a killin’ me, that is.”
Pruett stood quietly in the darkness. “You could run, Ty. You know this wilderness as well as anyone around here, except for maybe Dirk.”
“Not runnin’,” Ty said.
“Well, if you are staying, I’ll see to it there aren’t any additional escape charges filed,” Pruett said.
“We’ll leave your truck here. I can have Canter and Baptiste pick it up tomorrow. Be kind of hard to explain how it was I let you drive it back down.”
They climbed aboard the Suburban. Pruett didn’t use the handcuffs. On the way down, Ty spoke.
“I told you I wouldn’t say ‘sorry’ again, but that don’t mean I can stop feelin’ it, Pruett. Sis, she was the only person ever saw much good in me. Pretty sure she was wrong, but damn if it didn’t feel good to know you had someone like that in your corner.”
“She was a decent woman,” Pruett said. It still hurt him to refer to her in the past tense.
“We off the record?” Ty said.
“We left the record a few miles back, I’d say,” Pruett said.
“I meant to kill ‘em all that night,” Ty said. “Ma. Rance. Cort. It’s just what a man’s supposed to do when persons of low character try to rob him of his birthright.
That’s McIntyre land. All of it. Weren’t to be played like a goddamned hand of poker. Luck of the draw? Nossir. Got to be more honor in it than that. Ma shoulda knowed that much.”
“Pa, you mean.”
“Yep, pa…what’d I say?”
“So this about those gas rights, then?” the sheriff said.
“About more than that, Sheriff. It’s about family. Don’t have to love each other, just gotta believe in one for all. That kind of thing.”
“You try reasoning with them? Sober, I mean,” Pruett said.
“Oh, hell yes. Wouldn’t hear a word of it. My fucking old man. He’s worse’n me, tell you that right now. And my brothers? Better part a Rance and Cort ran down my momma’s leg.”
Pruett nodded in the blackness.
“You kill anyone in the war, Pruett?”
The sheriff thought about his answer. “Yeah, I killed some.”
“It more right, you shooting some poor Charlie a hundred thousand miles away in some God-forsaken jungle? More right’n me shooting someone who’s blood, considerin’ they stole my family inheritance?”
“It was the wrong blood that got spilled, Ty.”
“Goddamn it, Pruett, I never meant to harm a hair on little Bethy’s head.”
“I believe you,” the sheriff said. “I know you never meant to hurt her. Look, your issue isn’t with me anymore, Ty. What you did is murder in the first. The law doesn’t care what you intended, or your reasons for doing it. It doesn’t matter that I killed some gooks halfway around the world and it doesn’t matter you didn’t mean for it to be Bethy.”
“Don’t matter,” said Ty. “I’m tellin’ my lawyer to plead me guilty in the morning.”
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.