Scottish Emeralds

Fiction By Kay J Fields // 5/14/2010

LoriAnn posted her contest story, so here is mine, personally Its  one of my favorites.

 

Alex was running. She dove around a corner and slid on the dirt and rock beneath her feet. Behind her she could hear the pounding footfalls and heavy breathing of her pursuer as he chased her through the town of Emery.

            “Alex!”

            Ignoring him, Alex clambered over the fence that separated farm from suburb and lurched toward the woods on the far side of the field. Risking a glance back she saw Jeremiah Peters pushing his slightly overweight body to its limits as he redoubled his efforts of pursuit.

            If only she could make it to the old hunters cabin that lay in the wood, Alex thought, and to the safety that she would find there when she arrived. 

            Peters was within a few feet of her by the time they reached the tree line and had snaked his arm out to grab her when she abruptly changed direction and weaved through the trees, making it impossible for him to stay in reach. Almost there, she thought and could finally make out shape of the cabin through the brush.

            “Alex, if you-!” Peters’ threat was suddenly cut off. Alex, turning her head in an attempt to see what had happened, ran straight into the solid chest of someone standing in the path. A comforting hand touched her shoulder. She had made it.

            “Jeremiah Peters.” The man standing with her said quietly as the other rushed into view.

            Jeremiah’s face was pinched with fury as he glowered at them. Alex only barely resisted the urge to stick out her tongue at him and settled for going cross-eyed instead. The man touched her shoulder again and she made her face blank again.

            “Weren’t you and that brat supposed to get out of town D’Acey?” Jeremiah growled.

            “The way I am looking at it, you sir are trespassin’ on our turf and I would thank you to leave.” The faint Scottish burr in Lenn D’Acey’s voice made his r’s roll and his vowels soft. “I am only goin’ to repeat myself it once. Please leave.”

            Jeremiah looked uncertain, but his eye strayed to the rifle which the Scot carried by his side and he nodded. “I’ll go, but you haven’t heard the last of this.”

            “Next time I might not be so lenient towards you.” Lenn replied darkly.

            After he’d left, Lenn D’Acey turned to Alex and fixed her with his dark brown eyes. Alex, unable to face the tired accusations in his gaze, looked away.

            Lenn sighed.  “Lass,” he began. “When are you ever goin’ to learn?” Alex shrugged and Lenn gestured for her to follow him into the cabin. Sitting down at the wooden table inside, he pointed to the only other seat. “Sit.” Alex sat.

            “Now, what was it this time? And I don’t want to hear that it was ‘an accident’ or that you really ‘didn’t mean to’ or even that you’re really sorry because I know that you’re not. I’ve known you to long to fall for that Alex.”

            “But it really was an accident.” Alex protested without much fervor. Lenn cocked his head at her.

            “Then it would be the eighth one this week.” he stated flatly and she winced. He’d been counting? “That’s one mishap for every day and then one to spare. Now suppose you tell me just what this little incident was?”

            “It was just a chicken.” she muttered under her breath.

            “Alex!” he exclaimed in exasperation. “You killed a chicken?—one of Peters’chickens?“

            “Well it wasn’t exactly my fault…“ Alex began but he put up a hand.

            “Just tell me the facts, please.”

            “I was running an errand for Jean and I saw this hen out in the middle of nowhere. So I went over to it and—figuring that it was lost—decided to find the owner.” Alex took a deep breath. “I guess I squeezed it too hard.”

            Lenn rubbed a hand over his face. When he looked up his expression was a mixture of a want to yell at her and to laugh. “You squeezed it too hard?” he repeated.

            “Yes sir.”

            “What in all the world am I to do with you?” he wondered aloud. “Alex, you are the only one I know of who can accidentally crush the mayor’s hat when clear on the opposite side of the road, who can spill near twenty gallons of oil by falling into a well and can strangle a hen just by pickin’ it up.”

            Even to her, the acts seemed a little far-fetched. “Sorry,”

            “You are goin’ straight over to Mr. Peters’ home to tell him that and then you’re goin’ over to Chef Jean’s and tellin’ her that you can’t work at the kitchen for one week.” Lenn announced.

            Alex jumped up. “Why?!”

            “Because, you will be workin’ at Jeremiah Peters’ house to help repay him for the loss of his prize hen. I’m not goin’ to lose the small good reputation I have over poultry.” he replied, also standing.

            Alex gulped. “Prize hen?”

            “You don’t think that Jeremiah, as short tempered as he may be, would chase you all the way through the town if it weren’t so?” Lenn shot back. “I have some work to do ‘round here so why don’t you scoot along now and be done by nightfall. I’m sure Chef Jean is wondering about you as well.”

            With a sigh, Alex went over to the door and pulled it open, but hesitated. “What did he mean about making us leave town?” she asked.

            Lenn studied her for a minute, holding her hazel eyes with his brown ones. He fingered the thin, tarnished chain that always hung on his neck. “He just wants us gone, Alex because we cause him trouble. It’s nothin’, go on.”

            Not completely believing him, Alex hurried out and managed to make it to the restaurant before dark.

            “Now where have you been all day? I’d have sent in the cavalry if you had been gone another two seconds!” Jean exclaimed as soon as Alex stepped foot in the kitchen. Fortunately, she got off with saying merely that she had run into some trouble. Jean lifted an eyebrow but said nothing else of the matter. “Go wash up and then get to work on the breads, I sent Missy to fetch the supplies that I sent you to get nearly an hour ago.” She then turned and began shouting out orders to the other assistants, checking orders from patrons and calling them out to the rest of the staff. With a sigh of relief, Alex went to the ovens and began working again.

            At the end of the day, Jean came up to her and Alex prepared to tell the head chef that she wouldn’t be coming by to work for some time. Jean handed her a basket. “For you and Mr. D’Acey,” she said with a smile.

            Alex took a deep breath. “I’m grounded.” She blurted. Jean raised her graying eyebrows as Alex rushed on. “I accidentally killed one of Jeremiah Peters’ chickens and Lenn say that I have to repay him so I can’t come here again until I work it off.” She made a face to display her disgust at the assignment and Jean tapped her with the handle of a spatula.

            “Your parents chose Mr. D’Acey as your guardian for a reason, Alex, best do as he tells you. As for your work here, don’t worry about it. I’ll get someone to fill your shoes for a day or so.” the cook said. Disappointed that Jean wouldn’t take her side; Alex took the basket of food and left the kitchen. She ambled towards the cabin slowly, reluctant to have to go to Jeremiah the next day.

            When she reached the cabin, she saw smoke rising from its chimney and a light from inside lit up the yard dimly. She froze when she saw three figures through the darkness. One she recognized as Lenn, his rifle ever present in his arms as he leaned his tall frame against the wall but even in this stance, Alex could tell that there was something tense in his posture.

            The other two stood side by side, facing the Scotsman almost threateningly. Or was she imagining it? The men could simply be visiting, Alex reasoned but she knew that they rarely had visitors and never at night. She wanted to be able to hide herself better but knew that as soon as she moved she would be spotted so she stayed where she was.

            “Jeremiah did come by here but it was on a different business.” Lenn’s words drifted to her. “I want you both to leave my property right now and I do not want to make things any uglier between us than they already are.” Alex could hear the tightness in his words as he hefted his gun slightly to emphasize his point.

            One of the other men waved something that glittered in the air and with a start Alex realized that it was a pistol. She trembled and more than ever wished for an actual hiding place.

            “We are generous, man. If you agree within two days then we will spare both you and that little monster of a girl. If not, than things will most certainly be unpleasant.“ One said and he was turned enough that she could see the flash of his nasty grin.

            Completely ignoring the other’s weapon, Lenn took one long stride forward and brought his gun up, training it on the intruders and forcing them to take a step back. Alex’s breath caught in her throat when she thought of how bold his move was and how easily the unknown men could kill him. “I told ya to get out before, and I’ll say it again.” Lenn spat, his accent thick. “I told Jeremiah to keep off of my land and I meant it to all of ya! Out now, before I shoot ya both dead.”

            The two men backed away slowly, finding themselves more afraid of the man that they had come to threaten than he of them. Alex tried to let out her breath slowly but the sound of it in the sudden silence caused all three to look directly at her.

            “Come ‘ere, Lass.” Lenn said quietly and Alex walked slowly over to him, her heart pounding. “These men were just leaving.” he added, looking pointedly at the two. They turned and left without another word and Alex whirled on her guardian.

            “You are going to tell me everything and your going to do it tonight.” She ordered, filled with the fear of helplessness.

            Lenn nodded wearily and for the first time Alex noticed dark circles under his eyes. They both went inside for yet another at-the-table talk. “What’s going on?” Alex asked as soon as they both had sat down.

            He smiled at her, “You’re as impatient as your father was Alex.” She glared and he cleared his throat. “News travels fast in this area. Once people heard of us only stopping for a few days here and there and leaving a boatload of trouble in our wake some of the townsfolk became unnerved.” He began.

            “Because of me,”

            “Aye, that’s part of it anyway. A few of the townspeople believe that we do not belong here, and I hope to change their minds.” He laughed dryly. “But I can’t exactly do that when I’m pullin’ guns on them to protect myself can I? Tonight, those two came to try to convince me to leave and I told them that I was goin’ to stay here as long as I pleased. You can imagine that that got them a bit annoyed.”

            “So just because I’m a trouble maker, they think that you’re dangerous?” Alex asked.

            “I’m different from them, Lass and that’s what scares them. Not to mention that I brought along an orphan girl who wrecks things.” He added.

            “Jean doesn’t mind me, she even lets me cook in the kitchen and I never mess up there.” Alex put in.

            “And that’s why we are staying.” Lenn said.

            “But those men said—“

            “You don’t worry about them, Lass. I will take care of them.” he said firmly. Alex looked at him anxiously but he shook his head. “They do not scare me Alex, and they shouldn’t scare you. I’m not goin’ to be run out on a rail after risking so much to get this place. I plan to live in this cabin until the day I die.”

            That’s what I’m worried about. Alex thought as she headed to her bed. She remembered the flash of the man’s gun, the wicked smile on his face and shuddered. But what had Lenn meant by ‘risking so much’ and what had happened before she’d met him? “Please be careful, Lenn.” She whispered before drifting off to sleep.

            Alex awoke the next morning to the familiar sound of hoof beats and slowly stretched, then yawned. Lenn trained horses to pay the rent on the cabin and often Alex would wake to hear him already working outside.

            She went to the door and looked out, smiling as she saw the Scotsman working a large bay in the clearing near the house. She went over to the cabins old stove and began to prepare a small breakfast of eggs for both of them but the eggs reminded her of what she would be doing that day. Working for Jeremiah Peters, this will be fun.

            After calling out the window to Lenn that his breakfast was ready, she tugged her unruly hair back into a ponytail, slapped a hat down on her head and headed out.

            Jeremiah was by far the richest man in Emery and his house confirmed the fact. Tall and foreboding, made of brick and full of all the shiny, modern conveniences it looked to Alex like a monster ready to swallow her up. She pushed those thoughts aside and hurried up the stone walk to the front door.

            A woman came when she knocked and looked her up and down with a grimace. “Yes?”

            “I came to talk with Mr. Peters,”

            “And why would he want to see you?”

            “It’s about his chicken.” Alex offered.

            “His chicken?”

            Alex sighed in frustration. “Yes, his chicken. The one I killed yesterday, only I didn’t mean to it just sort of happened, but Lenn said that I had to pay for it so here I am. But if you aren’t going to let me in then I can just go away.” She added hurriedly and turned to leave but the woman’s voice stopped her.

            “Master Jeremiah is around back, go find him yourself.” She shut the door and Alex stuck her tongue out at it and kicked dirt at it, then ran around the side of the house.

            Jeremiah was talking heatedly with another man when Alex walked up to them so she stood there, silently waiting. They looked down at her.

            “Who are you?” the other man asked.

            “Alex,”

            Jeremiah frowned at her. “What are you doing here?”

            “I came here to apologize to you and work to repay you for the chicken.” Alex explained yet again.

            The other man opened his mouth but Jeremiah sent him a look. “Darrel, I’d appreciate it if you stayed out of my business.” He snapped, and then to Alex said, “Go down to the barn and talk to the stable hands, I’m sure they have something for you to do.”

            Alex walked away in a huff. “Not even so much as a ‘thank you’” she muttered under her breath. “Treat me like one of the other servants. Bleh.” She waltzed over to two boys who were talking in front of the building she assumed was the barn. By the way they were dressed; she took them to be stable hands.

            “…an so I says to him, ‘Lawyers should be comedians, that way, when they do something stupid, everyone laughs instead of throwing them out of town!’” The two broke into laughter with a lot of knee-slapping.

            “That’s got to be the worst joke I ever heard.” Alex commented and the two jumped. “Hi, I’m Alex and I’m here to pay off some jail time in public service. Who are you?”

            They gave her identical looks of puzzlement and one stepped back a bit. “I’m Hale and that’s Jim.” The shorter of the two said.

            “Pleasure, so what needs doing around here?” she said briskly, anxious to get to work, get done and get away.

            “Stalls need cleaning,” Jim said hopefully.

            “That’s your job, isn’t it?” Alex asked, not missing a beat.

            Jim glared. “There’s also the pig sty to clean, the fence to be repaired, the sheep to be shorn and the cattle to be butchered, them’s all our jobs.”

            “Great, stalls it is then. Got a shovel?”

            Hale laughed. “I like you, Alex. Yeah, we’ve got shovels and stuff in the barn, I’ll show you.” He led them into the barn and showed her where everything was. “You put it in the wheelbarrow and then push it out to that pile there.”

            Alex nodded and went to work. Why can’t the horses learn to use a litter box? She asked herself.

            Mid-afternoon found her wiping away sweat as she shoveled the last stall, her muscles protesting. Stupid horses, stupid horses. Alex jammed her shovel into the dirt. “Stupid horses!”

            “Pardon?” Alex turned to see Darrel, the man that Jeremiah had been speaking to earlier. She flushed.

            “The um, stalls”

            “Ah. Jeremiah asked me to invite you in for some lunch.”

            “Thanks, but I should probably be getting home if I’m done.” She walked a few steps but found him blocking her path. He grabbed her arm.

            “You’re not done brat, not by a long-shot.” He grinned at her and Alex’s heart pounded. He was the man from the cabin last night.

            “Let me go.”

            “Make me.”

            Alex struggled and Darrel roughly slammed her into the barn wall. “Come with me, now.” he hissed. “Jeremiah wants you in one piece but I won’t hesitate to break a few bones.” He dragged her along with him to the house and kicked open the door. “Peters! Get down here!”

            Jeremiah appeared and smiled. “You caught the bait. Thank you; I’ll give you a raise.” He grabbed Alex’s chin. “You made our job so much easier by coming here girl. Won’t D’Acey be surprised?”

            “Bait?” Alex asked fearfully

            “To catch that beloved guardian of yours. Get her out of here Darrel.”

            Darrel took Alex to a dark bedroom and bound her hands and feet then stuffing a gag into her mouth. “Don’t worry, you won’t be kept waiting long.” He told her with a wicked grin and pulled out his pistol. “Not long at all.”

            Alex’s eyes widened as he left. They were after Lenn.         

For a long time she pulled and kicked out, attempting to loosen her bonds but to no avail.

After what felt like hours she heard voices moving towards her, angry voices.

“Jeremiah this is nonsense. I have nothin’ against you or your family. I never even knew your brother. Where is Alex?”

“You will get her in due time D’Acey. If Darrel says you robbed my brother and pulled a gun on him then you did and I’m not exactly happy about that.” Jeremiah replied.

“I came here to get Alex and only that, now you tell me where she is or else.” Lenn hissed.

I’m in here, I’m in here! Alex tried to shout but no more that muffled groan came out.

“You dare to threaten me in my own home?” Jeremiah asked coolly.

“I dare to order you to step out of my way.”

“Funny, that’s just like you.” said a new voice. Darrel. “Is this how it was in Hamlon? Did you have Gary Peters pressed up against the wall when I came into the picture? You remember now don’t you, or should I refresh your memory?” There was the ominous click of a gun cocking.

Silence

 “The wall of my home, you mean?” Lenn asked tightly. “The home that you had entered, trying to get to my money, everythin’ I had? Yes, I remember that, you had your gun aimed at my head.

“Darrel?” Jeremiah asked uncertainly. One of the men was breathing heavily, whether it was Lenn or Darrel Alex wasn’t sure.

“He’s lying Jeremiah; he’s trying to get you on his side. Don’t let him.” Darrel was speaking quickly and Alex knew just who was lying. “He pulled his gun on us and was about to shoot your brother. I stopped him. I saved Gary’s life.”

“Because you shot an innocent girl,” Lenn said quietly but the force of his words hit Alex sharply. “Imagine the shock a man goes through when he watches a young woman fall in front of him. At that point I was nowhere near to doin’ anything.”

“I tell you, the guy’s lying.” Darrel suddenly laughed. “Yeah I injured her a bit but she was fine and it was because she was in the way. I was aiming for you, Lenn.” Alex felt as if the wind had been knocked out of her.

“Then you don’t deny that you were in my home at the time.”

“I didn’t say that.” Something thudded and Alex winced, unable to tell what was going on. “You want to see that brat again? Fine, but first you give it to me.”

“You mean that treasure that you were after four years ago? I told you, it doesn’t exist. You’ve made a fool of yourself Mr. Watts. I gave up on that blasted treasure hunt before you ever even heard of me; it was too great of a risk, especially with thieves like yourself around.” A risk; where had Alex heard that before? “Now I have Alex to take care of and if you don’t give her to me soon things will get ugly, I promise.”

The door to Alex’s prison suddenly opened, revealing the three men in the hall and something that made Alex’s blood run cold. A fourth man stood inside the room and behind the door, a wicked knife held in his hand. Lenn couldn’t see him.

“Your precious brat is in there D’Acey,” Darrel said.

Lenn rushed into the room the moment he saw Alex. Her expression must have shown her horror because he hesitated. In that moment the man with the knife dove forward, throwing his weapon. Lenn ducked but cried out in pain and Alex saw him grab his arm. She fought violently as Darrel came into the room and grabbed her.

“Well we couldn’t fake you out, so we’ll try another way.” He shoved his pistol up next to her head. “Loot for the ‘lass’ as you so fondly call her, now what will it be?”

Lenn stood; his eyes narrow. “There is no treasure, you stupid fool!” He clutched his arm as blood trickled from where the knife had caught it.

“This is getting awkward D’Acey. Give those emeralds over before my finger slips on the trigger.” Darrel challenged, pressing the cold barrel against Alex’s skull. He grinned at the Scotsman.

“Darrel,” Jeremiah stepped in, looking uneasy. “This is getting out of hand is more like it. What is all this about a treasure? I thought this was about my brother.”

“Get out of this Peters. I told you that only to get your cooperation. I wanted you to catch this brat, not just chase her but you didn’t get my drift so I did it by myself. In any case, your part is done, leave this to me.”

“Why, so you’re a double-crosser? My lands, I never thought that would happen in my town. Darrel Watts, I’m not at all surprised, but Jeremiah? I watched you grow up; I changed your diapers and cooked your meals, boy. I never thought it of you.”

Alex knew that voice, that manner of speech. Darrel turned and when he did Alex was able to see.

Jean stood behind them, by the window with Hale and Jim, the stable boys. The boys looked at the scene in shock, while Jean waved an odd rolling pin in the air. “Why don’t we all clear out of here and clear this whole mess up, hmm?” That’s when Alex saw that it was a rifle, not a rolling pin; Lenn’s rifle to be exact.

The now familiar click came from behind them and again Darrel turned slightly. Lenn held his own pistol pointed at Darrel’s head. “That sounds about right Jean, thanks for comin’.”

“You had this planned?” Darrel asked, the gun wavering.

“You don’t think I would have come out here alone, knowin’ what I know about you? I’ve been looking for you for a long time Watts. I wasn’t about to let you slip through my grasp.” Lenn explained.

“I can still kill her.” Darrel hissed.

“But you won’t. You know that as soon as you do your own life ends and you don’t want that.” 

“You don’t know me to well, Scot!” Darrel suddenly spun his gun around and fired at Lenn; or rather it would have been at Lenn if he hadn’t moved a split-second before.

Alex would have screamed but her dry mouth wouldn’t allow it, then she found herself being pulled to safety by Hale. Jean and Jim were by her side as Hale pulled of the ropes and gag. “Thanks.” she whispered.

Jeremiah Peters stood in the doorway, frozen.

Lenn was on the ground, pinning Darrel Watts to the floor and yanking his gun away from him. “You get what you pay for.” He hissed at the man. Alex’s emotions chose that moment to snap, her knees buckled and tears began pouring down her face.

“Get the police, Jean.” Lenn said.

“You—get the police.” Jean said, pointing at Jim. “Lenn, you get over here, that man isn’t going anywhere soon.” She handed the rifle to Hale who pointed it uncomfortably at Darrel, who was furious but didn’t move.

Lenn shot a look to Jeremiah who had sunk into a sitting position on the floor and came over to Jean. But he didn’t even give her a second glance before kneeling beside Alex and wrapping her into a hug with his good arm like he would never let go.

Two days later, Alex and Lenn sat on the porch, cleaning his rifle and pistol.

“So, what happened to it? I mean, I can’t imagine that you would just leave it like that.” Alex said.

“What are you talking about now?”

“The treasure,”

Lenn pulled out his old necklace chain with the arm that wasn’t in a sling and studied the little piece that hung from the end. It was a tiny, gold key with an equally tiny emerald set into it. The jewel caught Alex’s attention. “Treasure?” he asked absently.

Alex watched as he turned the end of his rifle towards him and set the key into a small hole on the underside of the stock. He didn’t turn it, just let it sit there and then pulled it out again. Alex stared at him and he looked over at her, a grin spreading across his face. And suddenly Alex felt as though she understood. If there was one possession that Lenn D’Acey would never let out of his sight it was his gun. It was the perfect place to keep something valuable hidden, something small like a few fine quality emeralds.

He tucked the chain back under his shirt and stood, opening the door to the house. He paused, and looked back at her with a gleam in his brown eyes.

Comments

Yay its up! Thanks Ben for

Yay its up! Thanks Ben for fixing it!

Kay J Fields | Fri, 07/02/2010

Visit my writing/book review blog at http://transcribingthesedreams.blogspot.com/

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