As Elizabeth sits on my chair, she looks around at her surroundings and takes notice of the four lone men sitting at different tables, each taking their glances in her direction, each taking note. She tells herself she’s okay and that she did the right thing by bringing the box to Hapsburg as instructed by her recently deceased father, Ernest. Looking back now she feels the strangeness of her father’s last wish and how he wouldn’t talk about the contents of the box but only that it needed to be delivered to one Joseph Tooley, so the secrets long kept could be brought to life. What secrets? She has asked herself that over and over ever since leaving Ogilvie, a few weeks ago. And now that she is here this Joseph doesn’t even seem all too interested in whatever was in the box or if he has even opened it yet. Her thoughts are quieted by the recollection of her father’s final words to her. They seemed to ring louder and louder the more she thought about them. A brother, a brother she never knew. Why had her father kept the secret for his death bed? What would this brother have to say about all of this? Does he even know for himself? She realizes she has no proof other than her father’s words.
Her father, the preacher of their town, had never shown any signs of holding any secrets from anyone no matter how small a secret could be. He was a pillar in the community and would still be with them if he hadn’t died so suddenly. She can again see his eyes watering up as he lay in bed coughing and trying to explain his wishes of getting that particular box to a man she had never heard her father mention before. How quickly life can turn upside down, she thinks to herself just as a gunshot rings out in what sounds like the building right next door.
“God damn it, Luke, what are you going to do about this!” Walter has just fired his brother’s pistol into the ceiling and is irate at Lukes lack of urgency with the situation. “Tell him what you told me, Joseph, just tell him and let him figure out if this could be a suicide.”
Standing there I’m thinking that either Walter is doing one hell of an acting job, or he honestly had nothing to do with his brother’s death and the note that was left behind for me to find. Snapping back to the present, I give Luke my story and leave out the note because I’m not ready just yet to let Luke in on what has been going on around my cabin.
With the story out and Luke doing his best to calm Walter down I ask if they will need me to go with them to the body. And then the thought strikes me, was the bullet in William’s temple from his gun or another? I never thought to check the revolver for its contents, if a shot had been fired from it. For the moment, I keep this train of expedition to myself and wonder in silence.
“Hell yes, you’re coming with us Joseph, as far as I know, you shot William and have this all planned out to make it look like something that it isn’t,” Luke says stepping towards me. Doing his best impression of an authority figure he falls so short of his target it almost makes me smile a little.
Stunned at being accused of having anything to do with this I take two steps toward Luke and am now inches from his face trying my best not to lay him out right then and there. “Why would I have shot William Luke? Give me one god damn good reason why?”
“Well for starters it’s no mystery that you enjoy a drink now and then, and secondly you parade yourself around out there in the Jacobs Pass as if you own the whole damn area. Who’s to say you didn’t like someone getting too close to you little hide-a-way?”
And with that Luke is flat on his back and reaching for his pistol. But, mine is out just as quick, and here we are looking down the barrel of each other’s guns and not knowing what to do next. Then finally Walter steps in between us and says that I would have had nothing to do with his brother’s death although be it strange that he met his end so close to my cabin. With that Luke stands and shakes his head but still has his pistol out; so mine stays out as well.
“Why am I the one that has to have the coolest head right now?” Walter asks. “It’s my brother that has been murdered. It’s my family that has just become smaller.”
With Walter taking control of the situation by heading for the door and leaving no doubts that he is going to get his brother, Luke and I both stare at each other as if to say this isn’t between us it’s between Walter and William. And with that, we put our pistols away and follow out the door as Walter is heading into the tavern. Walking as only a man who has recently lost a brother can walk. What that looks like I can’t describe, but believe me if you have seen it you would instantly know it.
Once inside I see Elizabeth quietly stand and look my way. I head her way and explain the circumstances and ask her if she can wait for me once William’s body is brought back into town. She hesitantly agrees and grabs her bag. Pausing she says she’s only staying because she is curious as to what the box held inside and what those contents meant to her father. I assure her that the curiosity is mutual and that I would return as soon as I could.
After grabbing a few things from the back room, Walter emerges from behind the bar and hits the door of the tavern with a little more pressure than needed but less than what one would expect. With Luke following close behind I take one last glance over my shoulder at Elizabeth and try to give her an assuring grin but nothing of the sort came across my face I’m sure.
Outside and on the trail and moving in the direction of the waiting William, we pass the cemetery gate where Orville is standing and watching as we pass. As we get to the first bend in the trail, I look back to see him following along knowing that something is up. Orville, always there to lend a hand when a hand is needed.
Trailing behind Luke and Walter, I notice Luke swinging his head back and forth as if he thinks we are being watched, already on the job of catching the bad guy. A culprit that is out there somewhere either running or hiding. Luke, for all his annoyances, is the exact round peg for the circular hole of the sheriff. People, especially me, may not like him, but he does take his job to heart and does his best to uphold the law. A few steps ahead of him I see Walter looking down at the ground as he moves forward, he’s the only other person who knows about my mark on the trail that gives the location of the path off to the right that leads to my cabin. That’s how he knew he could make Elizabeth’s delivery last night and right now it’s how he knows where to find his brother. He hits the mark and off into the brush he goes searching for the trailhead and the dogs instantly begin to bark. Letting all around know that they know.