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Historical Fiction
by Aleta Kay

When seventeen-year-old Fawn Jackson receives a telegram at the finishing school announcing the death of her mother, she must leave immediately. Upon her arrival at home, she discovers her mother's death was not an accident. Why was she killed? How will she take care of her arthritic grandmother? Who is behind the repeated attacks on their home? Why are her Native American ancestors not answering her prayers? It seems everyone she trusts is a possible suspect. How will she learn the truth? The story is set in post-Civil War West Virginia, the youngest state in the country. "Sounds interesting!"

Chapter 1

Fawn Jackson stood as straight and tall as her five foot, five and a half inch frame would allow and tried hard not to look as if her black mourning clothes were swallowing her alive. She would not allow her sobs to break forth. If she had learned anything at the finishing school Senator Browning had sent her to, it was that a lady kept her emotions in check when in public. She had just received the telegram the day before, urging her to return home immediately. Holding the tears and fears in check was n...

Chapter Two

When Fawn’s grief was spent, she stooped closer to the creek bed. At first glance it seemed like an accident. No way, Fawn thought. Nana had said there seemed to be nothing wrong with the bridge as the wagon had crossed to go home. There had been no recent rain to cause the creek to overflow its banks. She could see no evidence that there had been any wildlife that would have caused the accident. Something just wasn’t right. As she turned to go back to the house the clouds finally dropped the...

Chapter Three

Senator Jeb Browning raked his right hand through his graying black hair. His household ledger lay open before him on the roll-top desk. “Angel, have you learned nothing of finances? I have had you educated in the best school. If you were ambitious enough I would send you to college.” He sighed and picked up the quill pen. “This is the last time. Do you understand me?” He wrote out the check.

Angel smiled. “Yes, father.” If he could be so generous with the likes ...

Chapter Four

After the doctor left Fawn closed and bolted the door. She fixed Nana a cup of tea, then went upstairs to put things back in order.

The upstairs was also the attic. Two bedrooms were divided by the stairs. Each room had a curtain that ran the length of the room, hiding it and its occupants from each other. Fawn’s room was on the left. Gray’s had been on the right. The walls were sloped and hung with blankets made from animal skins. Each had Shawnee tales of life painted on them. Fawn&rs...

Chapter Five

Officer Dewey Parker arrived at the Jackson house just as Fawn and Nana were finishing their breakfast. He introduced himself and asked if he could come in.

“I should have been here day before yesterday, but things have been pretty busy lately between Hinton and Sun Valley. Heard you had some trouble here the other day.” He sat in a kitchen chair without waiting to be asked.

Nana told about the break-in since she was the one at home when it happened.

Dewey nodded his head in...

Chapter Six

It had been three days since Jason Gardner had been to the Jackson residence. It was planting and branding season. He had helped his dad get the livestock chores done, and had planted the seedlings of sunflowers around the perimeter of the vegetable garden. His mom had been seeding it the day Fawn had come over. Now he came galloping up to the Jackson’s place, giving his horse his head, feeling the excitement of spring coursing through his veins. Plus, he wanted to see Fawn. I know she doesn&rs...

Chapter Seven

It was about an hour after supper when Fawn heard the commotion in the barn. She looked over her shoulder at Nana as she grabbed the lantern and shotgun, and headed out the door. "I'll be back in a minute, Nana," she called. Midnight Sun never acts like this unless something is wrong.

Her auburn hair was coming out of its coiled restraints as her running feet jarred it loose. What could have spooked Midnight Sun? With the shotgun straight out in front of her in her right hand, she approached the p...

Chapter Eight

Of all the days that it could rain why did it have to be today? Fawn stood at the living room window, peering through the parted sheer curtains. Angel’s friend was coming today. They would ride to Pipestem and meet the Wiley family who were in charge of finding a teacher for their holler. How would she ever be able to keep her hair neat in this weather? She was sure to look like a drowning vagrant by the time they would arrive. It would be nice to have some indication of when her escort wo...

Chapter Nine

Fawn was thankful that Joel had brought a carriage. At least they were protected from the deluge while they were inside. She laid the umbrella at her feet which were secure in her knee-high lace-up boots. At least they were the right size.

From her lowered lashes she studied the young man beside her. His hair was the color of sunflower honey and it was just a little bit wavy. She liked the way it curled at the nape of his neck. She had not yet had a glimpse of his eyes since he seemed to always be ...

Chapter Ten

Patches of blue sky shone through the clouds which had gone from charcoal to dust gray. Fawn had wrapped the strap around her umbrella and buttoned it in place. Joel came to the right side of the carriage and helped her alight.

Angel was putting on her hat and gloves as Fawn and Joel entered the house. Nana still sat in her chair. Two empty tin cups sat on the coffee table. Nana’s face brightened as Fawn came in. She did not offer to rise from her seat to see Angel and Joel out the door.


Chapter Eleven

Angel had not been able to figure out how to manipulate her father into giving her more money. If he could be so generous with everyone else, why was it so difficult for him to give her a little?

She had donned her oldest, most faded demure dress and coiled her hair to appear as a proper young lady. She seated herself in the wing chair beside the desk in his study. Her facial expression was sweet and serene as she worked on her embroidery.

Her father entered the study with Hank, the foreman, ...

Chapter Twelve

A man and a woman sit at a table in a darkened corner of The Hound's Ear tavern. It is remote from where they live. They don't know anyone in the area, nor are they known of anyone there. The woman is young and beautiful with raven colored hair and milk chocolate eyes. Her clothing is muted so as not to draw attention. Her companion is also dressed so as not to be noticed. They sit across from each other and have ordered coffee.

"Were you successful?" she asks.

"Not yet," was the reply.


Chapter Thirteen

The Gardner family loaded up their wagon with hoes, rakes, and seeds. There were also some jars of homemade applesauce, made the previous autumn. Jason’s parents rode up front while he and his little sisters rode in the back with the supplies.

Fawn heard the wagon as it bounced and jostled toward the house. She opened the front door before any of them could get out of the wagon. “Nana,” she called. “The Gardners are here. It looks like they have come prepared to work.”...

Chapter Fourteen

While the Gardners were visiting Fawn and Nana, Joel Blackman was in an alley between the mercantile and the bank. Bobby Sands was with him, a toothpick stuck between his teeth. Bobby was twenty-one and cocky. His thick brown hair was wavy and unkempt. His sideburns ran three fourths of the length of his jaws. His clothes were dusty. His black shirt, black pants, and silver-buckled belt gave the impression he was trying to look good. He leaned against the side of the mercantile, one hand in his pants poc...

Chapter Fifteen

Fawn was in her room. It looked so much better since Jason and his dad had repaired the walls and furniture. Ellen Gardner had even brought a new wash basin and pitcher. She sat on her bed, reading Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven.” What did it mean? Was it betrayal by a lover? Had the author been mocked by a trusted friend? What had Jason meant when he said to really see Angel?

She, Jason, and Angel had grown up together in this holler. Senator Browning had hired a tutor to teach al...

Chapter Soxteem

The office was a mess. Lanterns were knocked over. The fabric on the chairs had been ripped. Desk drawers were open and their contents strewn around the room. A note was left on the senator’s desk.

“Your daughter owes me money, two thousand, one hundred and sixty seven dollars. I looked for it in your office. Obviously it is in a safe somewhere. She knows how to get it to me. If I don’t have it in twenty-four hours, I’ll collect it by other means. You won’t like it...

Chapter Seventeen

Nana was asleep in her room. Fawn was still rummaging around, trying to find that newspaper clipping. She had looked everywhere and it had not turned up. Where could she have put it? Why do I have to be so absent minded? She thought. Nana was asleep in her room. Fawn was still rummaging around, trying to find that newspaper clipping. She had looked everywhere and it had not turned up. Where could she have put it? Why do I have to be so absent minded? She thought. She found her owl fetish, clasped it in h...

Chapter Eighteen

It was an hour before supper time when two young boys played kick-the-can along the dirt road outside their house, and about a quarter of a mile across from a large open field. They had been kicking it back and forth down and across the street. The last kick had it stopped by a mound of dirt that had been tamped down by recent rains, yet was still about four inches above the ground.

“What do you suppose is in there” Tommy Lilly asked. He stood straddle legged at the side facing away fro...

Chapter Nineteen

It would have to be a rainy day, wouldn’t it? Fawn thought.

Thunder awakened her, followed by silver flashes of lightning that had Midnight Sun stomping and snorting in the barn. She dressed hurriedly and threw on a mackintosh and galoshes. There wasn’t time to fuss with her hair and the rain would ruin the coil anyway.

She dashed down the stairs to find Nana sitting on the couch with a cup of hot tea in front of her. It was still dark outside. The watch pinned to her bl...

Chapter Twenty

Tommy and Joey finally had a chance to go back to the mound of dirt they had discovered a few days earlier. There was no mound there now, only a deep empty hole.

“Somebody stole our treasure,” Tommy wailed.

“It wasn’t our treasure,” his older brother replied.

“Well,” Tommy sniffed, “it would have been. What do we do now?”

“Go home and put the tools back.”

“Mom will skin us if she finds out.” Tommy...

Chapter Twenty-One

Angel drove the Browning brougham, pulled by a pair of matching chestnut Morgan horses, to Fawn’s house. Today was Fawn’s birthday and Angel was determined to make it memorable.

She carefully alighted from the conveyance, smoothed her dress and made sure her hat was still on straight. Reaching into the seat of the buggy, she picked up the package and swung it jauntily from her hand as she approached the front door.

Fawn was drying her hands after putting the clean dishes away. &ld...

Chapter Twenty-Two
Meeting New People

Angel sat with Joel as he drove the matched chestnut geldings while Fawn and Nana sat inside the carriage.

Nana fluttered the lace ruffle on her blouse front. Then she tapped her cane on the floor of the carriage and patted her hair with her free hand. “I do hope I’m presentable,” she murmured to Fawn. “Goodness, what will they think of a country bumpkin like me?”

Fawn hugged her grandmother. “They will love you, just as I do.” She smoothed her own sk...

Chapter Twenty-Three

The conversation swirled between the three occupants as they drove back to the Jackson residence. Joel was driving the team pulling the carriage.

Angel’s eyes danced with glee. “Fawn, I’m sure you are going to love those people. They already seem taken with you.” She sat with her back in the corner of the seat, her knees facing Fawn. She leaned forward and whispered, “You never know who you might meet once you get settled into a routine.” She actually winked.


Chapter Twenty-Four

Jason rode back to the Jackson residence the next morning. His mother was taking care of Nana, making sure she was comfortable. She sent some freshly made biscuits with a jar of honey and another jar of homemade blackberry jelly from the previous autumn.

He knew where Fawn would be. He knocked on the barn door. No one answered. There was no sound at all, not even a nicker from Sun. He cautiously opened the door which creaked on its hinges. Still no sound. He strolled through the barn, calling Fawn...

Chapter Twenty-Five
Where is Fawn?

“What do you mean, she’s missing?” Nana demanded.

Jason approached until he was close enough to take the older woman’s hands in his own. “There were three sets of hoof prints. She’s probably with Joel and Angel. You know what good friends they are.”

Nana nodded her head twice while looking at the floor. Her eyes were narrowed slits when she looked into Jason’s eyes. “Friends. Not my idea of friends.” Her legs were shaking when she gr...

Chapter Twenty-Six
Second Thoughts

Joel arrived at the barn early the next morning. Angel had already told him of her argument with Fawn the day before.

The rebuilding of Fawn’s house was underway. Jason, his dad, the men from Pipestem, and a few other men from Lerona and Speedway gathered together to get the job done. Trees were cut down,logs split and notched. Joel saw none of this. His focus was on Fawn.

How had he come to this juncture? He had a job to do, but more and more he was beginning to wish things were diffe...

Chapter Twenty-Seven

“What do you mean, she’s missing?” Nana demanded.

Jason approached until he was close enough to take the older woman’s hands in his own. “There were three sets of hoof prints. She’s probably with Joel and Angel. You know what good friends they are.”

Nana nodded her head twice while looking at the floor. Her eyes were narrowed slits when she looked into Jason’s eyes. “Friends. Not my idea of friends.” Her legs were shaking when she gr...

Chapter Twenty-Eight

Joel visited Fawn every day while her house was being rebuilt. Jason, his dad, the men from Pipestem, and a few other men from Lerona gathered together to get the job done. Trees were cut down,logs split and notched. Joel saw none of this. His focus was one Fawn.

How had he come to this juncture? He had a job to do, but more and more he was beginning to wish things were different. Fawn was beautiful but seemed not to know it. She was innocent, in spite of all life had dealt her. She just needed mor...

Chapter Twenty-Nine

To Sheriff Clyde Bonnell:

There is a dead body buried on Foggy Lane next to the abandoned well. It’s been there a while so it’s liable to stink. Might not be much left of it.

The unsigned note had been tacked to the outside of the door. Deputy Dewey asked the shop owners around town if they had seen who had put it there. They all shook or scratched their heads in wonder and said they had not. It must have been done after dark when the shops wer...

Chapter Thirty

Jason arrived and found Fawn still asleep lying on the straw in the barn. He had ridden over with the buckboard which was piled with blankets and pillows to try to keep her comfortable.

He gently lifted

her and carried her to the buckboard, thankful for sunshine and light breezes, and a comfortable temperature. She stirred and moaned as she turned her head. He studied her features as he placed her on the blankets. He could look at the soft curve of her jaw forever. Her reddish-brown lashes ...

Chapter Thirty-One

Dewey climbed down from the wagon and pulled the needed tools from its bed. He swiped his forehead with his shirt sleeve and looked up at the sun. It was nearing one-o’-clock he figured. By the time this job was over he might need two baths: one to get the grit and grime off, the other to refresh him. Blast. Every time he’d tried to set up a date with Molly something came up. If he didn’t make it this time, she might give up on him altogether. Well, he’d better hurry up if he had ...

Chapter Thirty-Two

Dewey arrived back at the sheriff’s office, jerked on the reins to bring the horse to an abrupt halt. He jumped from the wagon and ran into the office. The sheriff wasn’t there. Great. What was he supposed to do with the body? He took off his hat and scratched his head as he looked around. No solution came to mind. Molly was expecting him within the hour. This just could not be happening again.

He stepped outside and stood on the boardwalk. The undertaker’s shop was four blocks do...

Chapter Thirty-Three

Work was progressing steadily on the Jackson property. The trusses were in place and the exterior walls were being built.

Hank showed up on his buckskin gelding, jerking the animal to a sudden halt. Dan Gardner, Jason’s father, laid his hammer down on a board and briskly approached the rider.

“What can I do for you, Hank?” He wiped his brow with his shirt sleeve.

Hank reached into his pocket and pulled out a wad of money. “Senator wants y’all to use this to...

Chapter Thirty-Four

Nana hobbled around the room with her cane. The Gardners were nice folks, good friends, but the house seemed to be closing in on her. Was she ever going to be able to go to her own home?

The rain was coming down in drops as big as doe eyes and hard enough to drown out conversation. Wouldn’t be no work getting done on the house today. Her cane tapped staccato notes on the floor as she stared out the window.

“Got cabin fever today?” Ellen came up beside her friend.


Chapter Thirty-Five

Fawn paced the living room. Deep sighs repeatedly escaped her lips, although she was unaware of them. She crossed and uncrossed her arms across her chest. It had been almost two weeks since her interview and there had been no word since then. Her brow furrowed with worry.

Joel arrived just after lunch. She watched him dismount his horse. There was no smile as he approached the house.

She thrust the screen door open and stepped outside.

“What’s wrong?”

Joel stutte...

Chapter Thirty-Six
A Gloom Reflected

Rain had stopped progress on the Jackson house for three days. The relentless deluge took its toll in a landslide that blocked Route 20 between Lerona and Pipestem. Work on the railroad between Athens and Hinton had come to a screeching halt. Tempers flared and fists flew at the tavern. Joel wasn’t hurt badly. He gave worse than he got, and it had been worth it to get away from Angel. There was nothing in life more irritating than a bored woman. And Angel was bored. She was the reason he went to th...

Chapter Thirty-Eight

Fawn still sat by the river with Arctic Sun drinking from the water’s edge. Memories assaulted her spirit. When she was ten years old the year was 1868. She, her mother, and Nana visited the graves of their fallen men. The journey had been arduous. The roads were nothing but mud tracks from the early morning rain. Wagon wheels slipped and spun causing the horse to strain forward and sometimes misstep. Along the way they still passed broken muskets, canons, canteens, and pieces of uniforms from both...

Chapter Thirty-Seven

Fawn took Arctic Sun out for a ride. It had been three days, or had it been longer? She had lost track of time. They both needed exercise. Melanie and Sarah Beth had wanted to join her but she really needed to be alone. Two weeks crowded in a house with five other people plus her grandmother while waiting for their house to get finished. Sure they were friends, and they were kind, but the close proximity put her in a position to hear conversations that were none of her business. She felt like an interlop...

Chapter Thirty-Nine

“This has got to stop,” Nana shouted. “She can’t keep running off like this.”

Ellen hugged her friend. “I know you’re worried, but she probably just needs some peace and quiet. Fawn isn’t used to all of this commotion. Give her some time.”

Nana wasn’t convinced. “Maybe, but Ellen, this is the second time she’s taken off and disappeared, not tellin’ anybody where she was goin’. I’ve a mind to take her ove...

Chapter Forty

Sheriff Clyde and Deputy Dewey had been busy investigating the events at the Jackson property as well as trying to find the identity of the body Dewey had recovered. The two men sat in the sheriff’s office, a sparse room with no decoration, two solid oak chairs with high backs, and a three-legged stool. The only heat was a black wood stove in the corner of the room, next to a window, unadorned by curtains.

Clyde sat in the chair behind a small pine desk while Dewey sat on the stool at the end...

Chapter Forty-One

Chapter Thirty-Nine

Jason was worried. The Jackson house was nearly finished. Nana was antsy, irritable, and ready to go back to her own house. Watching her fidget was making Jason more edgy. And where had Fawn disappeared to? She had been gone too long and no one seemed to be worried. Well, he was. It was time to take some action. He would find her.

“Where are you going?” Ellen asked.

“To find Fawn.” Jason was at the door.

“She’s fine,” E...

Chapter Forty-Two
The First Skirmish For Fawn's Soul

Fawn awakened to the sound of thunder. She arose and stretched out the kinks in her legs and back. Sleeping on the ground with nothing but pine needles and leaves from the previous autumn did not create a comfortable bed. She brushed the dirt and debris from her clothing and combed her fingers through her hair, trying to get out the tangles and leaves. Midnight Sun grazed nearby.

A flash of lightning near the opposite bank told her the rain was not far off. She dashed to the water to see her reflec...

Chapter Forty-Three
Joel's Troubles, Jason's Worry

Joel sat at the bar drinking his sarsaparilla and watching the men at the poker table. Toby, the undertaker, sat next to him.

“Ain’t seen you around much lately.” Toby sipped his beer.

“Nope. Been busy visiting a young lady.”

“Yep. I heered ‘bout that. It’s that copper-headed girl that thinks she’s Injun, right?” He elbowed Joel in the rib.

“Don’t know anything about that, but if you’re referring to the ...

Chapter Forty-Four
An Unseemly Situation

Fawn awakened with a start, momentarily disoriented. Where was she? Where was Midnight Sun? She shook her head to clear the cobwebs. The action made her feel slightly dizzy. Of course, she reminded herself; she had not had much to eat. Her stomach growled at the thought of food. She was also thirsty.

She stood up and stretched, and almost lost her balance. Steadying herself, she looked up at the sky to determine the time. The sun was already high in the delft blue sky. About noon, she guessed, mayb...

Chapter Forty-Five

The morning presented itself with sunshine and water dripping from the leaves and pine needles. Fawn and Jason were soaked from the night before. Jason had sat under the pine tree, sleeping with his back against the tree. Fawn had sat under a tulip tree until sleep put her in a prone position. Now they were fresh and awake.

“Come on, Fawn. Let’s get going. My stomach is about ready to digest me; it’s so hungry.” He was trying to find something dry to wipe off his saddle. Sha...

Chapter Forty-Six

While Fawn and Nana talked about furnishings for the new house Angel sat in the office section of the barn at the Browning residence. She was not alone.

The oak chair in which she sat creaked as she sat hunched over her father’s ledgers. The entry that caught her attention was for an account labeled “Jackson Holdings.” The beginning balance figure was astounding. How was it that a poor farmer in a hovel of a house could have such a large sum of money? Was Fawn holding out on her? ...

Chapter Forty-Seven

The next morning presented itself with a mixture of clouds and sun. Fawn awakened to sunshine streaming through her upstairs window as a light breeze ruffled the curtains. She washed hurriedly as she stood by the washbowl and pitcher. She had washed her hair the night before at the outside water pump. Donning her best hand-me-down dress, she studied herself in the looking glass. My eyes are too narrow. They are barely slits in my too round face. My eyelashes are so pale they are almost invisible. I w...

Chapter Forty-Eight

The ride to the Wiley’s was silent. Mr. Forbes was a shy man and Fawn was too nervous to say anything. Her mind whirled with questions: What had happened to make the people in Pipestem change their minds about hiring her? Was she a last resort? Was this going to be a temporary situation until the people of the holler could find someone more suitable? What of Nana? The house was nearly finished and she would want to be in their new home. She would certainly put up a fuss about staying on with the Ga...

Chapter Forty-Nine

Joel had not slept well in over a week. His hair was uncombed and stood in tufts around his ears; the back was almost past his collar. His bloodshot, bleary eyes combined with the ten-day stubble on his face was evidence of his less than admirable circumstances. What had he gotten himself into?

His stomach rumbled. Food. Depression and sleep had stolen his appetite for days; how many he did not know. Now he knew if he did not eat something, he would be physically ill. He wasn’t sure it really...

Chapter Fifty

Dewey sat in a chair opposite Joel in his room at the boarding house. He had brought the soup as he had promised, just broth and noodles, no chicken. There were two pieces of cornbread to go with the soup. For himself Dewey had bought a slice of apple pie, fresh from the oven. Molly had served it to him in a bowl with cream and sugar.

Joel still looked haggard but color was returning to his face. Neither man spoke until Joel had finished his soup. Setting the bowl on the floor beside his bed, Joel ...

Chapter Fifty-One

Chester thought he had been discrete. He had to let Angel know that her father was aware of their liaison. But how could he? It seemed the man knew every move he made, every move Angel made. Who had been shadowing her? Was she aware of it? What did he really know of her, after all? Was she using him as a diversion? Why had she given him the money to buy the buckboard the senator had provided for its purchase? There were so many questions and very few answers. Was she worth the risk of her father’s ...

Chapter Fifty-Two

Fawn arrived back at the Gardner residence with mixed feelings. The Wileys had agreed to let her board her horse there. She herself would spend the first month at their home. They had enough room for Nana as well, but she knew Nana would not want to stay with them. She was already champing at the bit to be back in her own home. “I kin git along by myself,” she kept insisting.

She entered the house, and as usual, was greeted by two baby bear hugs from Melanie and Sarah Beth. After the hu...

Chapter Fifty-Three

Joel’s steamer trunk was packed. He didn’t know where he would go, but he had to get away. He had recovered enough from his ill health to be able to travel. But where would he go? How would he escape without notice? No one would even notice or care. Why should they? What have you ever done but use people, step on anyone who dared get in your way? When have you ever thought of anyone but yourself?

The litany kept repeating itself. Self pity had been a close friend for many years...

Chapter Fifty-Four

Fawn had been at the Wiley’s for two weeks and things seemed to be going well. It was a balmy, fragrant evening, the air heavy with the scent of lilacs and azaleas. The Wileys and Fawn had finished supper when Deanna broke the companionable silence. They had been sitting in the parlor with their sewing.

Deanna laid her embroidery in her lap, watching Fawn for just a moment, seeing peace on the young woman’s face. “Do you like teaching, Fawn?”

Fawn’s eyes brighten...

Chapter Fifty-Five

In spite of his best intentions he met Angel again. Due to the rumors that had been brought to his attention, he refused to be seen with her at the Hound’s Ear. They met instead in a clearing in the forest in Sun Valley. What was he doing here? He should already have left Lerona.

Look Angel, if we’re going to do this, I have to go to the Wiley’s tomorrow night. You’re really getting out of control, you know.” Even to himself he sounded like a petulant child.


Chapter Fifty-Six

The doctor had followed the wagon back to the Gardner residence, helping Jason to get his dad back inside the house. Dan was given a dose of pain reliever once he had been laid on his bed and made as comfortable as possible.

He slept soundly for a couple of hours. His thrashing and moaning brought a hurried intrusion from Ellen. He was turning his head, flailing his arms. “No. Nooo. Don’t push. Get back.”

“Melanie, run to the water spout and wet a washcloth. Hurry.&rdq...

Chapter Fifty-Seven

The entire first week of June was filled with sunshine and bird song. Nana and Ellen looked at the garden, now filled with ripening cucumbers, tomatoes, pole beans, lima beans, carrots, celery, and radishes. Ellen leaned on the hoe she had been using to get rid of the weeds that had sprouted after three days of rain.

“Looks mighty fine, Nana. The Lord’s been good to us, providing what we need. No blights or bugs to disturb the plants.” She smiled. “Should be ready to pick ne...

Chapter Fifty-Eight

Ellen and Nana wore wide-brimmed straw hats as they spent the morning sweltering in the summer sun. Although it was only nine-thirty, the temperature had already reached the eighties mark, they guessed.

Nana sat back on her heels, drew her right arm across her forehead, then wiped the sweat on her apron. “Lord,” she said aloud, “I’d sure ‘preciate some rain and about a seven degree drop in the temperature. You know how you like sevens in the Bible, Lord, so I’m a...

Chapter Fifty-Nine

The entire first week of June was filled with sunshine and bird song. Nana and Ellen looked at the garden, now filled with ripening cucumbers, tomatoes, pole beans, lima beans, carrots, celery, and radishes. Ellen leaned on the hoe she had been using to get rid of the weeds that had sprouted after three days of rain.

“Looks mighty fine, Nana. The Lord’s been good to us, providing what we need. No blights or bugs to disturb the plants.” She smiled. “Should be ready to pick ne...

Chapter Sixty

Angel paced around the dilapidated barn in circles. Where was Chester? A noise. She stopped. Turned around. Saw nothing. Who was following her? Not Hank. She lost him a while back. He was beginning to annoy her. He seemed to have gotten the idea he was in control. Another noise. “Who’s there?”

Light winds blew through loose boards. Stray pieces of old straw moved lazily in the air before settling back on the floor. The smell of old hay and manure residue wafted on the breezes that...

Chapter Sixty-One

Fawn was home with Nana for the weekend. It was the first time she had seen the new house after completion. It was still a two-story house, but it was larger than the one previous. The fireplace was wider and deeper, the chimney more solid. There were two large metal hooks set in the brick chimney which stuck out over the grate. They were sturdy enough to hold cast iron kettles for cooking when one did not feel like waiting for the old cast iron stove to get hot enough. It would be more convenient if all...

Chapter Sixty-Two

The Daily Gazette lay open on the desk. It was just a short article on page three that had Dewey chewing, once again, on a toothpick that was moving to and fro in the deputy’s mouth.

“The body of one Robert Sands was found

floating in Deer Creek on the afternoon of

June 7. There were ligature marks around his

neck. At the time of this article no suspects

have been taken into custody. A search of his

living quarters produced a letter which ha...

Chapter Sixty-Three

Angel was as hot as he her coffee. How long was this blasted storm going to last? If her plan got slowed down too much it might not work at all. What was she going to do? She was stuck at home, listening to her invalid mother’s keening. She paced in her room, stopped in front of the window for the umpteenth time. Would this stupid storm never end? She had things to do. Why was nature always against her? It seemed her plans were always thwarted, came to naught. Fawn didn’t even appreciate what...

Chapter Sixty-Four

NOTE: I discovered some discrpencies with the rain situation between chapters 61 and 63. They will be corrected in the revision process. Sorry about that.

Nana and Fawn had survived the storm and got everything cleaned up. Jason had ridden over after the storm to see that the two ladies were unharmed and no damage had been done to the structures. Fawn was preparing to return to Pipestem.

Fawn looked around her room after Jason left. Her throat felt tight. She wanted to blam...

Chapter Sixty-Five

It took two and half days for Dewey to get to Hinton. His first stop was the newspaper office. He walked in the door and asked to see the editor.

“Down that hall and to the left,” the front desk receptionist pointed him to her right. “It’s the only office in that wing.” Her smile was professional and courteous. She inclined her head in the direction Dewey was to go, then warned him: “He comes across as a bear so don’t pay any attention to his gruff manner. ...

Chapter 66

Joel rode out to the Wiley residence to talk to Michael. He needed advice from someone who wasn’t going to judge him. There had to be a way to extricate himself from the situation he was in. What had he been thinking, allowing himself to become entangled with Angel? Money, greed, the possibility of help from an influential citizen like Senator Browning? His conscience smote him. All of the above his heart answered. He dismounted, knocked on the door, and was met by eight-year-old Annette.


Chapter Sixty-Seven

The morning was cloudy and the scent of rain hung in the air as it wafted through the open window in Dewey’s room. The view from the window at the inn looked over the Bluestone River. It was choppy today. The water level was still high from a couple of days ago. He was glad he didn’t have to ford the river to get anywhere he needed to go.

He went downstairs, had breakfast, and decided it was time to pay the sheriff a visit, and hope he could get some honest answers. Recalling his conver...

Chapter Sixty-Eight

The sheriff in Hinton was busy. There were three other officers in the room. The tall thin one was talking to a man about a trespasser in his yard. The short one with the bald head was listening to a complaint about a stolen mule. The third was busy with paperwork. The sheriff was furiously rifling through a file cabinet, mumbling about people that didn’t know how to do their jobs.

Dewey sat in a chair next to a wall in what appeared to be a small waiting area. The sheriff slammed the file dr...

Chapter Sixty-Nine

Dewey decided he couldn’t leave town yet. There were too many unanswered questions. Was there any other information that had not come out yet? He decided to go back to the inn. Something didn’t add up. The man he had spoken to the day before was Bert Sands. Was he related to Bobby? If so, why not just tell Dewey? Was Bert hiding something?

He went back to the inn at supper time, sat on the same stool as before. The innkeeper smiled at him. “Can’t get enough of my cooking, hu...

Chapter Seventy

The man with the point-toed boots and slouch hat spoke to Angel as he handed her the document.

“Took you long enough to get it to me. Did you look at it?”

He drew in two puffs from his pipe before answering. “Yes. But you already knew what was written there, didn’t you?”

“Yes, but I needed proof. Now I have it.”

“Is this piece of paper the reason you have hated the Jackson family?” His tone of one of mild curiosity.


Chapter Seventy-One

Another dead body? Dewey scratched his head. What in tarnation is going on around here? Who is behind all of this, and why? Dewey took out his list of dead bodies and the other list of people who could be involved. Who was this Chester fellow? How did he fit in? His name was on the list of possible people involved in the other two murders. Somebody was pulling strings that had other people dangling from them. It seemed that as people lost their usefulness to the string-holder, they ended up dead. Dewey c...

Chapter Seventy-Two
Angel Confronts Her Mother

Angel donned her prettiest dress, her most fetching hat—the latest style. Her black lace-up riding boots made no noise as she took slow steps to her mother’s room.

The door creaked as she pushed it open, the sound like the cranking of chains lowering a coffin into the ground.

Annabelle (?) Browning jumped in her bed as Angel made her first loud step into the room. A smile began on the older woman’s face, then quickly froze as she saw the glare of hatred in her only daughter&...

Chapter Seventy-Three
The Pieces Start to Fit Together

There was one last thing Hank had to do before he left for some wilderness wandering. The hastily scribbled note, left unsigned was left with the bartender at the Hounds Ear. His instructions were to make sure Dewey was the only person to receive the note.


Chester moaned but couldn’t get up. His back was on fire, at least that’s how it felt. He tried to roll over on his side but the fire seemed to shoot throughout his body. His next attempt was to pull his legs under him, at lea...

Chapter Seventy-Four
Jason’s Investigation

Jason was still at the Jackson house. Fawn had left with Angel but he hung around to talk to Nana.

They sat on the porch rocking in the new chairs he and his dad had made for these dear friends. Jason took a long drink of his lemonade, a gentle breeze ruffling his dark hair. Maybe some day I’ll get to be a permanent resident, at least until I build a home for Fawn and myself, and Nana too, if she’s still alive.

Nana wore her customary bonnet, not the one Angel had just gi...

Chapter Seventy-Five
The Walls Come Crumbling Down

Jason went to the jail to talk to Joel. His confession had made headlines in the newspaper. Jason had some questions and was sure Joel had the answers.

Clyde looked up when Jason walked in and moved the ever-present toothpick to the other side of his mouth, as he sat his chair back on all four legs.

“Jason, what brings you here?”

“I came to talk to your prisoner.”

“That so?” The toothpick moved again. “You a friend of his?”


Chapter Seventy-Six
The Truth is Revealed

Toby wiped the sweat from his brow with his shirt sleeve. “Reckon how long we been a-lookin’ for this feller?”

Dewey raised his hat in order to see the position of the sun. “Considering where the sun was when we got here and where it is now, I’d say right about two hours, give or take.”

Toby pointed at something in a copse of trees. “I think I saw somethin’ move on the ground over there.”

“This guy’s supposed to be dead. ...

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