He wanted to hide away, curl up into a tiny ball, and cry like a baby. Blood Land.
May 30, 2013
A VG Serial: Blood Land
WENDY DIDN’T say anything for a long while. Pruett respected her silence, waiting patiently for whatever her reaction might be. Hanson had waited outside at the sheriff’s request. When his daughter finally spoke, Pruett then found he didn’t know how to answer after all.
“Why does it have to come down so hard, all at once?” she said.
“I don’t know, girl. I really don’t. Sometimes our number gets called and the heavens just open up.”
“This seems a lot more like Hell,” Wendy said.
“That it does.”
“I always liked Uncle Ty,” she said. “Never was close to granddad.”
“But I still don’t understand. I thought he was your suspect.”
“Things get murkier the further down we’ve gone,” the sheriff said. “I don’t like what we’re turning up. Some ways I’m glad your mother isn’t here to witness it.”
“Are the McIntyres really this bad?” Wendy said.
“Not all the way,” he said. “Mainly ‘cause your mother was one of ‘em. And for all his ranting and surliness, Ty is a rough package but I’d say he’s not too far past half bad.”
“How many others are involved?” Wendy said.
“That’s what I aim to find out next. Bringing Honey and the other two boys in for questioning. After the meeting with the judge.”
“I’m sorry,” she said.
“Sorry for what?”
“That you have to deal with your town coming apart when you need to be concentrating on yourself. Your own grieving.”
“I’ll be okay. Makes me want to take a sip something fierce but I also like the challenge of it. Keepin’ it from beating me, you know?”
“I do know.”
“I just wish I’d realized all this sooner, maybe if I had…”
“You couldn’t have,” she said and put her hand on his. “No one could.”
“It’s gonna get dark, girl. A lot more before it gets light again.”
* * *
Judge Butler didn’t like the new turn of events. He was even more inclined to call a mistrial than Hanson had predicted. He looked to the sheriff for answers. “What the hell is going on here, James?”
“Bridger, you know as well as I do that we’re just starting to piece this shit together.”
“It would be helpful deciding how to proceed if the puzzle were finished.”
“Yessir, I understand that.”
Butler looked at Miles Stanton, who gave the appearance of a schoolchild waiting to give his first recital. The weight of the Universe had just dropped on the shoulders of a twenty-seven year-old kid a year and a half out of law school. “I’m about to ask you if after a reasonable continuance you’ll be prepared to take the reins on this case and drive ‘er home. Don’t tell me no, son. Don’t you even think about doing that.”
“Nossir,” Stanton said.
“You’ll be ready?”
“Nossir—I mean, Yessir. Yes, sir. I’ll be ready to proceed, Judge.”
“Good,” Butler said. He turned to Hanson. “Two weeks. It’s all I can manage without shutting this whole thing down.”
“It’ll have to do then,” Hanson said.
“We’ll convene in the morning to make this a matter of the official record,” Butler said.
“Can we keep the specifics off the record for now?” Pruett said.
“For now,” the judge replied. “Reconvene at nine A.M. for issuance on the record.”
Pruett left the chambers and said goodbye to Hanson. His intent was to drive out to the McIntyre ranch and haul Honey and whoever else was there in for questioning. He felt it was time to let her know he wasn’t backing down.
He didn’t make it.
For some reason he’d been thinking about Jesse all morning. Since seeing all that death again. In addition to making him long for a drink, he also craved some human contact. Not the kind he was in store for with the McIntyres—he needed something that made him feel alive.
The booze promised that but never really delivered. He’d feel alive for a short while—as if he were firing on all cylinders—but that was vaporous at best. He needed something that would fuel him for the long run. Or at least more than a few hours.
Jesse could do that for him. And she was sober. Maybe she could be his sponsor. He knew that was a horrible idea (and not entirely appropriate), but she was someone he trusted and, yes, probably even loved a little.
He ached then, as if a small pebble of guilt had just caught in the side of his heart. He thought of Bethy again. What he’d done to her trust all those years back. Thoughts of his own failure and betrayal were never more than a few feet from center stage, just waiting in the wings for their chance to jump into the spotlight.
No one blamed him more or was less forgiving than he was to himself. No one. But even back then he knew he loved Jesse. Not in the same way he loved his wife—his love for Bethy was rock solid; it was the kind of love that was a foundation for greater things. The cornerstone of an entire life spent together, being there for each other, helping one another. Until death do us part.
It took the death of his beloved to wrench her away from his life. The love he felt for Jesse was different. More raw and exposed—less healthy for him, like the booze.
No. That wasn’t fair. Jesse was not bad for him. She was not an addiction either. But still the love was different. That didn’t make him need it any less. At that moment Pruett felt like he needed the warmth of human contact more than ever before in his life. He wanted to curl into a tiny ball and cry like a baby.
Pruett didn’t cry. Or at least he rarely did. Not since he came back from the war. He saw far too many tears there to ever want to cry any himself again.
But now he wanted to. Needed to.
And in Jesse’s arms he could do that.
He could cry.
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.