Chapter 21

I was getting hot with the windows rolled up and was very grateful when Sloan came over and opened the door. "Dammit. You're roasting."

"I'm ok."

"No it isn't ok."

I put my hand on his his where he was wiping my face. "Sloan I said I'm ok ... not that it was ok. The way those men were driving they could have hurt you." I closed my eyes and shuddered. "I don't like that at all."

He chucked me under the chin and gave me the first grin he had since he noticed the cars following us. "Not my idea of a good time either Sweetheart. However..."

"Mr. Williams?" It was the Patrolwoman. "I need to have a word with her," she said pointing in my direction. "Privately."

"Sloan?!"

"Hey, take it easy. They probably just want a statement. Just tell the lady what you saw. I'll be right over here. OK?"

I squared my shoulders and nodded, determined not to make a scene or a fool out of myself. As Sloan stepped over to answer something one of the Patrolmen asked him I asked her, "What exactly can I do for you?"

The Patrolwoman looked at me then crossed her arms. "Are you being threatened or mistreated?"

"Huh?" My facade of confidence faltered. "Sloan drove really well and then ... well I don't know which one because y'all kinda all look the same with your uniform and glasses on ... but anyway, two then three of y'alls cars made those other two cars stop what they were doing. They could have hurt him you know."

"You're from Kiln Ridge? Is that right?"

"No. Sloan's from Kiln Ridge. I'm from Totsie right outside of Butler Brook. Only I guess you mean ... well, I guess that makes Sloan from Totsie too since ..." I sighed. "I sound ridiculous. Can we start over?"

"Why? Aren't you able to keep your story straight?"

I ignored her penetrating stare and answered, "Because I feel just like a kid does when they get asked out of the blue to give a report up in front of the class only they forgot to do their homework." I sighed once again, gave the address of the farm and asked, "That's where we live. What else do you need to know?"

"There's no need to be afraid Teaghan ... is that how you pronounce your name? I'm only here to help you."

"I'm not afraid exactly. And yes, it's Teaghan. It came from some radio show my mother was listening to while she was in labor with me. Teaghan Serenity Williams. Serenity is some show my father used to love from the dark ages. The Williams is because I'm married to Sloan."

She gave me a careful look and asked, "How old are you?"

"Eighteen."

"I can check on that you know."

"Go ahead though I don't know why you think I'm lying."

"Let me be blunt, and all I want is a yes or no. Is the man you are calling your husband abusing you?"

"What?! No! How could you ask such a thing?! How awful!"

Sloan must have heard me getting upset because he was suddenly just there. "Easy Sweetheart. They don't know me from Adam. They're just making sure everything is on the up and up. Don't get upset. It's pretty standard procedure around here."

"But why?"

He opened his mouth, then shut it and sighed. "Teaghan, just answer the lady's questions and don't get so upset."

"But ..." Then it clicked. "Oh ... because of the pandemic. And how some men have been acting like donkey's behinds since then."

"Something like that." He looked over my head and said, "Her father and brothers kept her pretty isolated. She has an idea of how things stand but ..." He shrugged as a way of finishing his explanation.

I looked at him and he got a very innocent look on his face. I didn't say anything aloud because I didn't want to embarrass myself but I wasn't too happy about looking like a know-nothing kid in front of everyone else.

It took what felt like forever but all the questions were finally over with and just in time. Two more cars showed up and one of them belonged to Mr. Burdock. He took one look at what was going on and told the two older men in the other car that it would be dealt with after the "boys" were taken to the county lock up. That's when things got interesting.

"You'll have to have your lawyers go to Patrol Headquarters in Hyattsville to start with."

"Excuse me?" one of the men asked who it turned out was the father of one of the young men.

"They will not be going to County, they've been directed to other holding facilities for further questioning."

"What? Which one?"

"After they are booked, they get one call. They can choose to use that call to notify you of their whereabouts."

"I forbid you question them before they have a lawyer present."

The patrolman shrugged. "Not my purview. Each of them have at least one outstanding warrant out for them already ... from other counties and two from across the state line. This incident is just one of several they are being arrested for. Like I said, they'll have one call. They can use it to call you or not, up to them."

"Dash Calhoun is seventeen. His father will need to be present."

"Actually Calhoun's warrant specifies that due to the severity and nature of his charge, he is to go to an adult holding facility until the state prosecutor determines whether to have him tried as an adult. He'll get his call just like the others."

Mr. Burdock walked over to me and looked down his nose. "Teaghan what are you doing here?"

"Mister wanted to go for a drive and he wanted me to go with him."

The patrolwoman was suddenly standing next to me. Mr. Burdock's face became carefully neutral. "Teaghan I'm sure this is all a misunderstanding. The boys let their high spirits get out of hand."

"Hmmm. Not to be rude Sir but that wasn't high spirits. They could have hurt Mister. All you have to do is look at the truck and the driver's door. They were trying to push us into a ditch. And a couple of them had their guns out and shouting stuff. I couldn't understand exactly what they were saying but it was something about sharing so they must have thought we were carrying something they wanted. They were acting just like the mob that killed Dad and my brothers. And they aren't boys either. If you are old enough to pick up a gun and aim it at someone then you are no longer a child."

Sloan came over and put his arm around my waist. "She's had enough of this. A man should be able to take his wife out without being run off the road for it."

I thought that was a funny way to say it but I didn't interject. The young men were starting to get the idea that things weren't going to go their way. Two of them tried to make a scene but were quickly subdued with what looked like a cattle prod handle that had them squawking and obeying to keep from getting poked again. The father of one of the men started to get loud but Mr. Burdock said coldly, "Enough. They took part in an ill-advised activity, there are consequences. After McDermott bails them out I expect a full report concerning what these other warrants are for. It looks like this isn't the only ill-advised behavior on their part. Shoddy operation ... very, very shoddy. A man should be able to control his children Roberson. I am not pleased at all."

*****

Finally we got to go but instead of making a U-turn and heading back to the farm Sloan continued the direction he had been going. "Sloan?"

"Don't. I promised you a trip to the store and that is what we are going to do."

"Actually I was going to ask you if your head hurt. Your eyebrows are all scrunched down."

"I'm fine ... pissed but fine. And what's the idea of calling me Mister back there?"

"Oh. Habit I suppose," I said nonchalantly. "It is what Gram called my grandfather when there was company around."

"Now you listen ... Oh. Really?"

"Yeah. Mom picked up the habit from her and I guess I'm just continuing it. If you don't like it I won't but they always said it was respectful to your husband."

"Welll ... you don't have to is all I'm saying."

"OK. I'll be ... er ... careful about it."

We drove a few more minutes and then Sloan picked up his phone. "Hey I need ... What? Slow down, I can't understand you. How the hell did you hear about it? No we're fine. They hauled them off and it sounded like they weren't going to be anywhere Baumgarten could get to them. Yeah I'm sure. I know tell me about it. Look, do me a favor. Can you pick up the boys? Yeah." He nodded his head. "Yeah you might want to do that. I got a couple of stops to make then we'll swing by and get them. Yeah, and give me a call to let me know. Thanks."

Sloan looked at me then asked, "Were you serious about being willing to homeschool the boys?"

"Sure. But I thought you wanted them to be with boys their own age."

"Did. Do. But I have a feeling the State is going to get very interested in the school pretty quick and the boys can be ... unpredictable ... when they get stressed out. They're going to kick up a fuss but ..."

"Maybe not as much as you think. They don't really care for most of their teachers and think most of it is boring. One or two subjects are ok but most not so much. At least on the farm you can track what they are learning. I read the history book they are using and I have to tell you, I found a lot of ... hmmm ..."

"Errors?"

"That would be the polite thing to call 'em."

Sloan slowed down to turn into the parking lot of a strip center. He looked over at me. "You've got more going on upstairs than you are being given credit for don't you."

I looked at him and then sighed and said, "I can put two and two together Sloan. Mr. Burdock isn't the nice man I thought he was. He was Dad's friend - though maybe friend isn't the right word for it - but I've never been very comfortable around him even when I was little. And Hannah was scared of him."

"Interesting. You weren't?"

"No. Because I heard the boys telling Hannah one time that they'd kill anyone that tried to hurt her or any of the rest of us. The way they said it I knew they meant it; they'd just returned stateside and were still half crazy. I knew Dad would be the same way too but the boys could be mean about things like that ... kinda like you I think only you're more reasonable. The boys weren't always reasonable and it wasn't always because they planned to be like that. They put up with Mr. Burdock but that was about it. Mr. Burdock put up with them too but that was about it. Dad was the one that keep things smoothed out. He had to because of Mr. Burdock being on the BOCC and being able to make things hard on us to make a living. Dad wasn't a bootlicker but he was ... circumspect."

"Circumspect is it?"

"Don't make fun."

"I'm not," he said in a more relaxed voice. "I think though that instead of disappearing after you bring Dan and I tea in the office that you might like to stay."

My mouth fell open and I almost couldn't believe what I was hearing. "I used to sit with Dad and the boys every night," I said carefully.

"Yep and I think it wasn't just to be decoration or to fetch and carry or to play scribe. Am I right?"

"I ... uh ... I told you I helped."

He grinned. "Next time kick me so I'll listen. Now let's go find those lemon drops."