There had been a killing out at the ranch, and it wasn’t an accident. Blood Land.

More chapters from Blood Land

A VG Serial: Blood Land

Chapter 15 – 3

The next night the two of them met at Dirk’s place on the river. Ty told Pruett that’s when they formed a plan to take out the old man. Both of them knew that their mother was behind the whole swindle—that their father wouldn’t make any kind of move without her telling him to do it. But Dirk said killing the old man would send her a message. And at least they’d get their share then.

Later that night, at his own home, is when a bullet meant for Ty’s skull ended up in the plaster and dry wall of his living room instead of his brain. After the murderer fled, Ty got in his truck and tried to give chase. When he lost the taillights, he headed back to town; back to Dirk’s place.

“Wake up,” Ty yelled as he pounded on Dirk’s door.

Dirk opened the door and Ty barreled through.

“Fucker tried to kill me.”

“Who? When?”

“Our sweet old pappy. Tried to put a slug ‘n my head not one hour ago.”

“Shit.”

“Damn right shit. Who else did that bitch tell?”

“What bitch?”

“Juanita, God DAMN it, don’t fuck around with me, boy.”

“Shit, Ty…I don’t think she told anyone.”

“You don’t think. Since when anyone told you to think?”

“She’s good friends with the Drake woman.”

Maisy Drake?”

“Yep.”

“Maisy Drake’s husband drinks pitchers every other night with Rance,” Ty said. He was seething. Juanita tells Maisy, Maisy tells her dipshit husband, husband spills the beans to their brother, Rance. It all made sense. Then it took his mother all of twenty-four hours to decide to have Ty killed instead.

Her own son.

“Why the fuck didn’t they come after you?” Ty said.

“W-what?”

“I said, they tried to kill me. How’d you get off scot-free?”

“Maybe you scare them more than I do.”

“Maybe.”

“Shit, Ty. Wasn’t me. I didn’t say nothin’. Not to no one. Not by a long shot.”

“Tomorrow night, then,” Ty said. “We finish it. Once Rory’s dead, they’ll all start singin’ a  different song. Even ma. She’ll see she was right to fear me.”

* * *

“So you both went there with murder on your minds?” Pruett said.

“Yep. But halfway there I got them willies we talked about.”

“And Dirk was all right with that?”

“Seemed to be. We got more liquored up by that rock, the one I said. I told him I was too drunk to shoot. He wanted to do it.”

“You couldn’t see who was on the porch,” Pruett said.

“Just that fucking hat. And the coat. From a distance, it looked like Rory had stepped onto the porch.”

“Dirk fired the shot.”

“He was too drunk to be firin’ any weapon,” Ty said, sorrow in his voice. “I shouldn’t a let him take that potshot.”

“You think Dirk told your old man about the plan, thinkin’ he could get a bigger piece of the pie with you out of the picture?”

“I think he told Honey.”

Pruett thought about that for a moment. “I think he told the BLM.”

Ty said nothing, but he flinched.

“You said you were going to tell me all of it,” Pruett told him. “Tell it.”

“I don’t know all of it,” Ty said as softly as Pruett had ever heard him speak. “That’s why I left that number for you to find. I knew the government was involved somehow. Dirk knew more. A lot fuckin’ more. That night in the bar, outta the blue he starts flappin’ his gums about this huge scam with the government, and how ma and pa was flat smack in the middle of it.”

“So how did the shooting go down?”

“Just like I said it did. I figured all that talk was bullshit. The night Bethy died, that happened just like I said. ‘Cept…”

“’Cept what?”

“Dirk had this cagey look on his face when we tore hell for the south entrance. All the way out to the highway, where we left his pickup. Like he was nervous ‘bout somethin’.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean he looked like the cat that ate the fucking canary. Like he was screwin’ up the courage for somethin’ but just couldn’t do it. Like he was too scared to follow through.”

“You think you know what that something was?”

“I think he was meant to plunk one in me when we got back to the highway and he yellowed up.”

“That means the shooting up at the ranch wasn’t any accident.”

* * *

Pruett decided it was time to pay a visit to Honey McIntyre. If she was at the head of the family, that meant she was the one dealing with the BLM. And Pruett needed to start putting the pieces together fast, or things were going to spiral out of his control.

On the way down the cratered road to the ranch, the cornered animal returned to his gut. The aching need for a drink gnawed at his insides, tormenting him. He didn’t want to have this conversation. Hell, it didn’t even sound rational. But he was past not believing these things could happen in his town. Past thinking such notions were crazy. Too many people were dead or dying to not believe it was true:

Honey McIntyre, crime matriarch.

It was no longer as ridiculous as it once seemed.

And there was certainly nothing ridiculous about Ty’s eyes when he talked about his mother. Tyree McIntyre was a powder keg full of fury and a brawler that no man should want to mess with—Pruett himself could now attest to the truth in that statement. But when Ty talked about Honey, the rawness in his voice dissipated and his countenance got all screwed up with, well, fear. And Pruett had never seen Ty afraid of anything; the man faced down seething bulls for fun.

But he was damn sure wary of his own mother. That much was evident in the way he deferred to her, even in his speech.

Pruett had intentionally shown up in the middle of the day. Nine times out of ten Rory and anyone else working that day would be out to the upper place. Which would leave him alone to question Honey McIntyre.

God he wanted a drink.

He knocked on the kitchen door. He could see Honey fretting with some baked goods, apron on just so, having to be careful picking up the pans and bowls because of her severe arthritis.

“James A. Pruett,” she said warmly when she turned around and saw it was him. “Come in, come in. I just put a new pot of coffee on—be ready in a couple minutes.”

Pruett removed his hat and played with his hair some. He walked into the kitchen.

“Sit,” Honey said, smiling gently, clearly unperturbed by his presence.

She continued to flit around the kitchen, putting what smelled to be two loaves of pumpkin bread on a cooling rack on one counter then moving the used dishes to the sink for cleaning. “I might ask you to help with these dishes before you leave,” she said. “The affliction is mighty hard to take today.”

Honey always called her arthritis “the affliction”. Ever since Pruett had known her. Until today he’d found it endearing.

“Honey, I…”

She stifled him with a hand in the air. “Coffee first. Civilized people don’t have conversation without a cup. Not serious conversation, anyway.”

She shuffled over to the cupboard and retrieved two clean, white porcelain cups. “Coffee makers now got a stop-plug, lets the impatient cusses git their coffee ‘afore it’s done. What’ll they think of next to make our lives less troublesome?”

“Don’t know,” Pruett said.

“Damn tongue a yours is usually flappin’ this way and that,” Honey said as she sat down and pushed a cup of coal black coffee halfway between them. “Sounds like you got a piece a tanner’s leather in there today.”

Pruett slid the cup the rest of the way and picked it up for a sip. “Thanks for the coffee,” he said.

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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