When the Night Falls
Robin Renee Ray
To Be Continued…
Squatting down by what little shrubbery was left on far side of the creek, the three men searched the night for any presence of the owners of the wood abundant land just a mere eight feet across the mild running water that wasn’t six foot in depth. One barbed wire fence ran the width of the creek a mile from the edge of town and at what the Kenny’s claimed to be the beginning of their land where the forest met the bank of the fresh water. Rocks jutted out and up from there and made it an impenetrable crossing past that point.
“It looks clear, you go ahead and go, Sam,” John patted his back and nodded firmly.
“Why me? You go first.”
“Don’t argue boys,” Gus said, getting down on one knee. “One of ya go and when ya get across the other can take off. I have my shotgun and I know how to use it.”
“It’s dark old man, you won’t be able to shoot anything past your own nose,” Sam scoffed.
“You better hope that past my nose is enough, now get.”
“Come on, Sam. It ain’t gonna get any warmer,” John said, grabbing the back of his coat.
John stepped down into the water, making a shivering sound then continued until he was swimming with nothing out of the water but his shoulders and head. He looked back to see Sam close behind, shaking his head as if it had gone under the freezing liquid. By the look on Gus’ face, John knew it had and couldn’t help but to smile.
“Oh hell, we have to hurry, I can’t feel my feet,” Sam complained as he waited for John to pull himself free from the creek.
Reaching back, John helped his younger brother out and both sat down and held themselves. They watched Gus stand and swing the bag around over his head and release the rope that it was attached to, all the while hoping it would make it across. John jumped up just in time to grab the bag right before it rolled into the creek.
“That was close,” Sam whispered.
John waved over to Gus then untied to the rope, tossing it back into the air as Gus pulled it back across the water. “Damn straight, get out of those wet clothes before ya freeze.” John was taking his off as he spoke. They hid their wet clothes under a bush with the bag and quickly added the dry coats to their clothing.
The boys started gathering the dried, fallen wood around the creeks edge as soon as they knew the coast was clear. Gus walked up and down the other side watching for anything to move so he could run back and warn the working boys. Sam had worked his way a little too deep into the tree line and fell into a crevasse, about six feet deep and making enough noise that Gus heard him.
“Sam,” John hissed as loud as he dared. “Where are ya?”
Gus waved his torch wildly trying to get the boy’s attention, to no avail.
“Down here, I think I broke my leg,” Sam harshly whispered as he grabbed on to roots that stuck out from the crumbling earth.
“Reach up and give me your hand.”
“John, behind ya!” Gus yelled.
Turning to see what Gus was yelling about, John felt the blow before he saw who swung the club. Sam began cursing at the top of his lungs until his voice was cut short and abrupt. Gus threw his torch into the creek and placed his hands around his eyes, trying to catch any sign of the two boys. He was hoping for some sort of a glimpse. What he saw brought chills up his spine and had him stumbling back so fast that he went down hard. “Oh good Lord help them.”
The silhouette of three dark figures stood out, as the moon lit sky and dark tree line behind them. All three were wearing hats and holding something in their hands. Two reached down and pulled a body by its legs a few feet and dropped it, while the third crawled down and disappeared into the darkness. Soon after the other two leaned down and pulled another limp form up from the earth and dragged it to where they had laid the other and dropped it. Gus knew it was the brothers. Once the third figure was back up with the others they all grabbed an ankle and began dragging them away into the unknown.
Gus was up on his feet and running as fast as his weathered body allowed. He burst through the old church doors, and fell into the bankers arms. “Good heaven’s man. Get a hold of yourself.”
“Get a chair, Carol,” Gavin called out to his wife. “Come on Gus, let’s get you by the fire.”
“Ask him where those two no-good-for-nothing boys are?” Allen asked as he shifted his weight and started walking back over to where he had been sitting.
“Give the man time to catch his breath, Mr. Lyle,” Carol snapped, helping Gus sit down. “I’ll get the whiskey.”
“And coffee,” Gus stuttered.
“What happened, Gus?” Gavin draped a coat over his shoulders.
“They made it just fine,” he took the shot glass of whiskey from Carol. “Thank ya kindly.” He drank it down in one gulp. “They was gatherin’ wood when Sam slipped down in some hole of sorts. That’s when I saw them dark shadows comin’ their way. I tried to warn ‘em when John bent down, but it was too late. I saw one come back around with somethin’ in his hand and John went down. I took off when I saw them draggin’ them boys off like nothing more than two deer carcasses.”
“Sip on this Gus, it’ll warm ya up.” Carol handed him the cup of coffee and then hurried out of the room, unable to handle what she had just heard.
“We won’t be seein’ those two again.”
“Allen, if you don’t shut the hell up, I will close that mouth for ya,” Gavin stood and Allen closed his mouth. “The last thing we need is for you to go and get everyone all upset. Old Kenney ain’t gonna do nothing but scare them good then send them back over the creek.”
“You heard him, Beaver,” James Cox, the grocery store owner said, stepping away from a dark corner. “I hear it told that the Kenney’s have gotten rid of more than a few that’ve gone where they shouldn’t.”
“I heard it told as well, and member when the Jones’ boy went missin’ back in thirty five? My pa was one of the ones went to the draw a lookin’ for ‘em. That’s when Beth was still around and able to control that old fool.” Betsy Boyd was an old-maid that had never married and never left her parent’s home. She had lived with them when they bought land and built their final home in Paradise Pass, in the year of seventeen eighty nine. Now at the age of sixty eight, she’d been the post mistress since the day that the post office went in, and she was well known as the busiest body in town.
“Betsy, you know what you’ve been told, no more, no less.”
“I know plenty, Allen Lyle, and it would do you well not to get me saying what I know about you and why you take them little trips down to the Sara Soto tribes.”
“Allen stood so fast he knocked his chair over. “Well, I’ll…I’ll,”
“You pick your chair up and take a seat or you can go home, Mr. Lyle,” Carol came back in with a tray of tin cups and a pot of steaming coffee. “I have some bread in the oven if’n anyone would like a bite.”
“Ain’t no use in trying to talk to Kenney tonight. Might as well go on home and get some sleep, then ride over and fetch the boys in the morning,” Gavin paused rubbing his stubble covered chin, “if they don’t come runnin’ in tonight.” He looked over at his wife and smiled, trying to make light of the situation.
Betsy had a few slices of warm bread with butter and two cups of coffee with cream from the only milk cow that was left, while Gavin and Gus talked over the best way to approach Ed Kenney to explain why they had trespassed to steal his discarded wood. Dried pieces, that his family hadn’t touched and was just rotting in the weather. After she had said her ‘good-byes’ she took Allen by the arm and made him walk her to the far side of town where the road split. The one that went to the right, was no more than a hundred yards from her front door.
Gavin stood outside and watched until Allen crossed the street and went inside the bank where he lived in an apartment in the back. He saw that Betsy’s front room light came on as well as Allen’s in the back room, then he turned and went back in to find Gus laying his head on the table.
To Be Continued…