Josh and I started out barely speaking. I was wondering how to get the coversation moving when Sheriff Whitey pulled into the road ahead of us.
He stopped the car and waited for us to get up next to him.
His face told a story that neither I or Josh wanted to hear.
” Josh I just came from…”
“Let me guess one of my aunt’s houses and Roberta has decimated the entire place. Even the ashes are gone.”
The face on our county sheriff’s face showed that there was more fact than Josh wanted to hear.
“No not quite she has decimated both of your aunt’s places. At both times there was blue red and white bolts of lightening. I am sorry Josh.Why would she do that? That’s your entire family. But she didn’t touch Ina, why?”
The two men sat there trying to figure it out. When it hit me.
“She didn’t bother Ina because she never lied to Roberta. Even when they fought Ina was always straight up with Roberta.”
“You’re right Ella. Ina raised me just the way she told Roberta she would. By you own omission when there was shouting at the asylum. Ina was honest with my mom.”
Whitey scratched his head.”I am not following.”
“The day that Ina and Roberta came to words. Ina told her that Josh was a grown man and Roberta better realize it.Or just roll over and die.” She didn’t pull any punches and she didn’t coddle her. Roberta must have known she was telling her the truth.” I reached out to touch Josh only to have him pull away.
He seemed to be having trouble with the fact I was trying to help him at all.
I moved Dan on up the road and left the men to talk.
“Damn, why didn’t I think of that? I’ll tell you something Josh. You had better change attitudes or you will drive that woman away. She would be a heck of catch for somebody. I know a couple of men that are looking to lay claim. You best think about that.” Whitey replaced his hat and backed his car back to go the other way.
Josh sat on Hellion thinking about everything he’d just heard. Looking up toward the woman who had been ahead of him. She was already heading down into the bottoms. He saw her stop and look back his direction. Sure wish I could tell her how much she means to me. The big horse shook his head up and down as if he was in agreement.
I am not sure why I showed up three days later with my sleeping bag, clothes, and sturdy boots. I also had the only thing my foster dad had ever given me. A Smith and Wesson .38 with extra boxes of shells. The 4:10 shot gun was a present to myself after I graduated from college and had my masters. I entered West Virginia University School of Medicine on a full scholarship the next semester. My grade point average had never dropped below a 4.0. The shotgun and a shooting range had made sure that happened. I took to target practice every time I got fraustrated.
I rode up on old Dan a horse I boarded at Harold Grimes house. Something had told me Josh was going to take off with out me. He was saddling his big roan by the name of Hellion when I showed up.
He watched me come down the hill in my cowboy hat and boots. He didn’t recognize me. He moved to get his gun as I dismounted. Until Jeb bounced out and tried to knock me down by putting his paws on my shoulders and trying to lick my face.
Only then did Josh realize that I was under the hat. I could tell he was irate at the idea of me having figured out that he was going with out me.
“I hope you will be ready to go in less than an hour. I can repack my stuff to be on the trail by then I forgot to put some jerky in my saddle bag where I can reach it.”
“Did you bring water?” He huffed at me.
“Two canteens and two extra water bottles just in case. I am not willing to give up my youthful appearance by not being hydrated. I also have dehydrated fruit and cheese and crackers packed in between my shells.”
“You would never be willing to let me do this alone would you?”
I reached out taking my binoculars to my eyes. “Since I don’t see any pigs flying. I am sure that means not a chance in…. well you get the picture. Now hurry up and let’s go. I am intending to be at the opening by dark.”
He carried the pressure cooker of food into the shack bringing up the rear with a basket of bread and other goodies I was surprised on how much bigger the place on the inside actually was. The place had been built in a cavern that the walls were completely smooth from the winds. The original cavern was probably started hundreds of years earlier. The sandstone made with the different layers of sand made for beautiful walls. The front wall covered a opening with a Sandstone wall. You would never know it from the outside. The living room was an area of about 20 by 20 had with a fireplace that had a natural chimney. He had decorated in heavy wooded furniture that had rich chocolate brown microfiber cushions that you could sink into. The couch had a hand knitted ivory colored afghan tossed on it. The main focus of the room was the fireplace and stone hearth.
The kitchen had all the modern conveniences plus a wall of natural cabinets he had taken the crevices made them his pantry. A heavy wooden bar worked for a table and a place people could sit and talk as he worked in the kitchen. The lighting consisted of recessed can lighting. The effect was very pleasing.
“I talked to my other aunt’s today.”
Looking at his face I saw the hurt that he was feeling.
“I assume it wasn’t a good conversation from the look on your face.”
“You would be right. They were both uncooperative to talk about anything. I’m not sure what to believe. They were never out and out cruel to me. They both let me know that they wouldn’t care if I dropped off the face of the Earth. I am the one that caused all the problems in the family.” Shaking his head they never said a word about Aunt Ina’s funeral. So I am done with them.”
I served the green beans on the heavy stoneware plates he handed me.
“So now what?”
” I am going to make a trip down to the lost river and see if I can find out anything. I talked to my commander and he is checking about the large battery affect but I get the feeling nothing is going to come of it.”
” I am going with you.” I reached out to touch his hand only to be met with anger.
“No you’re not. I won’t let you go, it’s to dangerous.”
“Well tough I am going. You don’t know where the opening is and I do and I have been thinking about it. I have been down past the wall. It was a long time ago . I can act as your guide.”
His face went dark. I could see he was angry but he saw the sense in what I was thinking.
“Listen Ella, it’s not that I mind you going with me. But if you got hurt. I think it would kill me. I have been too close to people in the military and have lost close friends. I am not willing to let something happen to you.”
Some how I appreciated the thought. But it angered me that he didn’t think I could handle it. “So I am supposed to sit and wait on you to come back like a good girl. Listen to me and listen good. I am going with or without you. Roberta was,a friend of mine. So was little Sammy, if I can help give either of them peace all the better. So get over this he-man crap and deal with it.”
I wasn’t expecting his reaction. His hands gripped my shoulders turning me to him. “Don’t you get it you little fool. I’m not sure if I could protect you from her.”
” Don’t you get it I would rather take the chance of being killed down in that God forsaken hole. Than staying here and not knowing if you’re alive or dead down there.”
His lips found mine right after his arms pulled me close.
In the corner by the fireplace a small boy sat watching the two of them.They had no idea what they were in for.He stood up and dissolved into nothing. He would try to keep them safe.