Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Ottoman: Empire or That Thing You Put Your Feet On? - Part 6


Three days later another confab was held.  “You sure about this girl?  It would be a relief for all of us if you are and if it works.” 

“Lon, it isn’t about me being sure.  I’ve been sure all along that Matt was beatable.  Even after I almost ran out of life force …”  I stopped when Jax started growling.  “When I got sick, even at my lowest point, I was always sure that Matt was beatable … even if I wasn’t the one that wound up beating him I knew someone would.” 

"Ok fine, I'll even give you that point," Vern agreed.  "But I'm talking THIS plan.  Are you sure about it?" 

“As sure as I can be.” 

Vern scratched the back of his head and I noticed his hair was thinning back there.  It made him look older.  For that matter I was beginning to notice everyone looked older.  Hard work and a lot of worries will do that to you.  “This isn’t the time to go soft on Matt,” he finally said. 

“If you are worried about hurting my feelings then you can put it to rest.  I get it.  I’m sure in all fuss and bother of the last couple of days someone has reported that I’ve said I pity Matt.  And I’m sure that has you concerned; you are wondering if I’m going soft.  Don’t let it.  I can pity him.  I might even be able to generate a little compassion for him just to practice my own humanity.  That doesn’t mean that I think consequences should be withheld.” 

“There’s consequences and then there are consequences,” Lon reminded me. 

Jax said, “I’m willing to do the deed.” 

I looked at all three men and sighed.  “You aren’t going to like me saying this but here it is.  I don’t think we should be the ones to execute him.  I’m not even sure executing him is the best solution.” 

Jax hunched his shoulders and said, “Kinda late to be discussing this.” 

“Yeah.  The Chattanooga Militia already picked him up,” Lon said. 

“And he’ll be tried in a court of law … a real one run by real lawyers with a real judge and a real jury and his Constitutional rights will be assured and yada, yada, blah, blah, blah.  Bottom line is Matt will have his day in court.  I have no doubt that he’ll be convicted as an accessory to Baumgarten’s criminal activities.  My best guess is that those in the local militia that were arrested have already, or will soon, turn on him to save their own skin … they’ve got more to lose as several of them are facing either a firing squad or immediate transportation to the front lines.” 

Jax sighed.  “He’ll try and blame you for the dam.” 

“Won’t work.” 

“You keep saying that.” 

“And I mean it.  The dam was already marked down as an act of God due to the flooding.  We weren’t the only ones worrying that the wash outs around the spill ways were going to cause a collapse.  As far as the rest of it?  Even if a few think he might be telling the truth who is really going to think some poor, sick girl created all the mayhem in town?  That isn’t even the focus of the investigation which is more about Baumgarten.  What’s he going to do?  Blame me for that too when they’ll likely have all of these other depositions that point everything right back to him?” 

Lon shook his head and said, “God forgive me but if this plan of yours works, it isn’t all that satisfying Lydie, not after all we’ve gone through and all we’ve suffered.”  He looked at Jax then and said, “I know he’s your family but …” 

Jax shook his head.  “By blood.  The rest of what could have been died a long time ago.  And if there had been any left, what he did to Lydie killed what was little there was.” 

“Jax …” I said, putting my hand on his arm.  The muscles were bunch stiffly and I could tell he was trying to control the anger he still felt. 

Eventually he put his hand over mine to let me know that he knew I was more concerned for him than anything else.  Directing his comments to Lon and Vern he said, “I’m … well, maybe ok isn’t the word for it but I’ve accepted the way things have turned out.  Matt wrote his own story.  Nothing I tried to do changed the direction he chose.  Now he has to pay the piper.” 

I said, “He’ll do that.” 

Vern asked, “Will he?  Boy might just talk his way out of this one too.” 

I admitted that, “He will undoubtedly try.  He may even be able to keep himself from winding up in front of a firing squad.  But he won’t escape.  He isn’t Delorey Baumgarten.  He’s not scary enough.  If he tries to use what secrets he may have picked up about people from those quarters more than likely he’ll just wind up beat up or found dead in his cell or something equally as nasty.” 

Lon nodded and said, “That’s harsh but I can see it happening.  With the backlog gone from the justice system trials are coming faster and with the war on, sentences are being carried out without appeals and fanfare.  We’ve heard through the grapevine that they are already pulling together a jury and the trial is going to start as soon as they can get him to the court house.  The only reason they expect the trial to last more than a few hours is the length of time the prosecutor is asking so they can read out all of the charges and present evidence against Matt.  Apparently he wasn’t as hidden behind the scenes as he thought.” 

Jax nodded.  “If Matt is expecting to be able to put on a show he’s in for a shock.” 

I agreed and added, “This isn’t high school.  This isn’t small town.  He wanted to play with the big dogs … this is what it means.” 

Everything else said before Jax took me back was just a repetition of what had already been said.  After everyone was tired of repeating themselves the meeting broke up; we had chores to finish before it got dark.  We were almost home when Jax took a left turn and we bumped down a road full of pot holes to a small cul-de-sac where three empty slabs sat.  Even the bolts that the trailers had been strapped to were gone.  Tall grass grew in every direction. 

Looking around I said, “Things have definitely changed.  But if you expect me to get out and see if anymore spiders are around you can think again.” 

Jax relaxed but only a little.  “Yeah.  Have the girls mentioned anything yet?” 

I gave a small grin realizing Jax was still careful to include me in everything even if the others still occasionally treated me like spun glass.  “You mean about Ashton and Reggie trying to figure out a way to build their own homes?” 

“Yeah.  I told them to leave it until after the whole Matt situation was brought under control but …” 

“But Ginger thinks she might be pregnant and Alex and Johnson are finally getting serious as well.” 

“Throw in Janice and Aiden …” 

I nodded. “The house is going to resemble a bunny hutch pretty soon if we don’t create some space.” 

“Pretty much,” he agreed nervously.  Then he asked, “Are you ok with that?” 

“The bunny hutch or the spreading out?” 

“Spreading out.” 

“So long as you and Kelly don’t ‘spread out’ then I figure it is just what was always going to happen anyway.” 

“What if we get stuck with Gennie?” 

Uncomfortably I admitted, “I haven’t thought that far ahead.  I’d rather not think too far ahead yet if you don’t mind.  The logistics of trying to make sure everyone has what they need to start up is starting to make my chest tight and my stomach churn.  It is going to be hard enough to get through winter with all of us under one roof.  Trying to do it for … Jax I just can’t think about it right now.” 

He reached over and took my hand.  “Then let it go.  I probably shouldn’t have brought it up.  I just didn’t want you to think stuff was being hidden from you.  I actually think, even with all of us working and helping, it is going to be months before everyone has a place of their own and I don’t think it is even feasible to start any serious plans until after it has dried up next Spring.” 

I nodded and tried to work the tension out of my neck.  “You know, I think everyone moving out on their own worries me more than Matt ever did … or … or at least as much anyway.” 

“I thought you said you needed to let it go.” 

“I do.  It is just hard.  Nature abhors a vacuum.  Since our big worry is going away my brain is looking for the next one.” 

“How about your brain takes a small vacation so you can rest.” 

“I feel like I’ve done nothing but rest since I blew the dam.” 

“Wrong.  If you had rested your recovery wouldn’t have taken so long.”  Debating something he finally asked, “When are you going to tell the others?” 

“Not until we’re sure.  You said you can’t tell yet so it is possible that I’m not.  I’m not feeling any different … to the good or to the bad.  I’ve only missed once.  And if I am I want to keep it between just the two of us for as long as we can.” 

“You’re … you’re sure?” 

“Yeah.  We need to have something for ourselves alone before it becomes group property.” 

“Oh,” he said like he’d been thinking something totally different. 

I asked, “Have you already said something?” 

“No.  I … I guess I just worried that you were … I don’t know … uh … unhappy about the timing.” 

We still ran into each other’s insecurities back then.  Finally understanding his hesitancy I told him, “If I am … if we are … I’ll be happy.  I just don’t want to be disappointed if I’m not.” 

“Oh.  Disappointed.  Yeah.  Ok … we keep it between us.”  Then he winced and shook his head.  “I don’t even want to think about what Reggie is going to come up with for commentary.” 

I smiled with grim humor and said, “I wouldn’t worry about Reggie.  He’s going to be too busy trying not to walk into walls and doors every time he thinks about Ginger being pregnant.  Or did you think the dayglow green he has been sporting around his mouth was his natural color?” 

Jax got a laugh out of that but then became serious once again.  “Sorry you got caught up in Jules’ hissy fit this morning when he found out I’d accepted some stuff from the people out of Chattanooga.” 

“Not a prob.  Jules is just feeling …” 

“Like a fifth wheel.  Everyone else is pairing off only there’s no one for him but some little girl that he can barely stand.” 

I nodded.  “Aiden thinks … well Janice says Aiden thinks that Jules may not even make it through the winter.  That he may take off to go look for … for whatever happened to the adults and other kids, to see if any of their family has survived and if so why they never came to look for them.” 

“If he does I wish him luck.  He needs something we can’t give him … a direction of his own.  He and Johnson almost got into it the other day.” 

“Still no reason for him to go off on you because you accepted the vitamins and those Kid Kare packages.  They weren’t paying us for being informants, it was just good will kind of thing since they aren’t going to be able to set up a med center in this area like people expected them to.” 

“I know it.  Aiden and Janice got him calmed down just in time to keep Alex from clocking him about being late for relieving her at the overlook.  Jules is going to have to be watched.  I was hoping with Gennie calming down …” 

“Yeah ,,, the drama.  Sometimes I wonder if we’re going to outlive it or what.”

3 comments:

  1. Kathy thanks for the chapter and the story, you are a very gifted writer and story teller, again thanks for sharing your gift with us.
    Wayne

    ReplyDelete
  2. Kathy thanks for the chapter and the story, you are a very gifted writer and story teller, again thanks for sharing your gift with us.
    Wayne

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thank you :) always enjoyable.

    ReplyDelete