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Chest of Hope Ch.15

The sun peeked over the horizon, as Paul walked Tamry to her door. She gazed into his eyes after their kiss. “Was it all a dream?” Tamry asked. “Who's to tell dreams from reality? All I know is that I love you, and want to marry you.” Paul answered. “Me too! When?” Tamry squealed, as she hugged him hard. “How about next Saturday?” “I'll have to make the arrangements fast.” Tamry giggled. “Be sure to get a bottle of that potion from the Lady, as a wedding gift.” “How many for the honeymoon?” Paul asked, and laughed softly. “Just one, unless you are going to invite friends along.” Tamry answered, with a shrewd expression on her face. “No visitors to that party. Neither one of us could live through that again.” Paul said, as she shook her head. “You're probably right, but what a way to go.” Tamry said, and jumped from the pinch Paul gave her tender bottom.

Later that morning, Luke dropped his wife and son at Goldberg's Grocery with the wooden token. They had talked the night before about this strange way of payment, but Luke convinced her that with the check, this was the biggest salary he had ever received. They had decided to purchase enough food to last the family for a month, mostly dried goods, from which soups and one pot dishes could be made. As Luke helped Susan out of the truck, he told her to shop wisely and get the most she could. “I'll be back in a couple of hours. I'm going to the bank before they close and put the check in our account.” Luke said, as she took the boy in her arms. “That's not going to take too long. Where will you be?” Susan asked. “I think I'll go have a couple of beers. I'll be back at noon to pick you up. Don't worry about me so much.” Luke said, and gave her a quick kiss.

Luke pulled off on his way to the bank, and saw his son waving to him. He sounded the horn and stuck his arm out the window waving back. He parked the truck in the bank lot. A moment later, he was entering the empty lobby of Barclay's. He noticed that Mister Holmes was the only person in the bank. “Good morning. Is there something you need?” Robert asked, from his desk. “Yes, I have a check to deposit in my account.” Luke said, as he approached. Robert looked at the man standing at his desk and then over to the empty teller cage. He remembered the earlier phone call from Tamry telling him she wouldn't be in, because of a twenty-four-hour thing she caught and needed to stay in bed. Robert said not to worry, as the bank was only open till noon Saturday. “Yes, I can do that for you. How much is the check for?” Robert probed. “Five big ones. Not bad for a week's work.” Luke announced, as he handed over the check and deposit ticket. Robert wondered where a person in New Hope could earn that kind of money for a week’s work, as he regarded the endorsement on the check. When Robert saw the strange circle and cross his manner changed in an instant. “Oh! You work for Mister Odhinsunar. Let me take care of this right away.” Robert said with a half smile. After the transaction was finished, Robert handed the man all kinds of paper work on financing cars, boats, and houses. He walked Luke to the door and wished him well and hopes for his future business.

Luke laughed to himself as he drove off thinking of how that banker had treated his family not more than six months ago. This new job for that giant has changed a lot of things in this town. Luke's thoughts changed as he pulled up to the only place open this early for a beer. The Duck `N’ Buck had a few cars parked around the lot and Luke walked into an almost empty bar. Luke saw the bartender dusting the bottles as he went to sit on the stool. “What'll you have?” The bartender asked. “Beer, draft.” Luke answered. Luke drank two beers, before he got up and headed for the bathroom. As he walked over, he heard voices coming from the meeting room. He ignored them as he went in the men's room. He still heard them as he came out and stopped for a moment to listen. Mister Johnson was spelling out all the things happening down at that outsider's farm. Luke opened the door a few inches and peered inside. About twenty men were sitting around tables with beer pitchers and mixed drinks. On the platform was Mister Johnson in the center, Sheriff Thomas on the left, and Pastor Miller to his right.

The Sheriff began to speak about how he was hopelessly unable to do anything officially about this threat to their town, when a shove from behind pushed Luke into the room. “This snooper was listening at the door.” The bartender called out to the crowd. Jasper Cooper stood up from the table, pointed and cried out, “He's one of those guys who work on that farm.” “Well, well, we seem to have white trash drinking too much and hearing too much as well.” Johnson said, as the crowd's eyes bore down on Luke. Luke thought quickly and turned toward the bartender as he approached. Luke's left foot came up fast and found the soft unprotected groin area of the bartender, as he lunged forward. Luke watched the contorted mask of pain as the man dropped to the floor. Luke eyed the door and attempted to reach it. Just as Luke thought he had reached his goal, the forms of three men came into focus. Luke struck the closest jaw with his clenched fist. The man recoiled from the blow and Luke was about to hit again when his arms were grabbed from behind. Luke felt the fist hit his stomach, as another found his face. Luke swung wildly and contacted someone's face. “You broke my nose! You bastard!” The man yelled, “You'll pay for that!” Two more blows to Luke's back had him on the floor and scrambling away between the crowd of men that were converging on him. Luke saw a bare leg wearing shorts and thought, why not? He grabbed the bare flesh and bit down, hard. The yell startled everyone standing there and they watched the man bend down. Luke released his hold and the taste of blood filled his mouth. He saw the wounded man collapse next to him holding his leg, blood spurting out of the viscous bite. Luke jumped to his feet and dashed for the door. He jumped over the body of a man that had stumbled and reached for the handle as the door flew open catching him in the forehead. “What's going on in here?” Bob Jones yelled, as he entered and saw a man's body being flung backward by the impact. Luke's mind whirled as he was staggering backward. Luke found the meaning of pain. He became a human punching bag for the crowd of men that gathered, to rain blows after painful blows. Luke suffered this abuse until his knees gave away. “Take this trash out back and take care of it.” Johnson said, as they raised him off the floor. “Be a pleasure!” A voice called out.

Jasper Cooper and Bob Jones raised Luke's arms and pulled him out of the hall and across the bar. Luke was only perceiving shapes and shadows as he felt his heels being dragged over the wooden plank floor. The sunlight shined in his eyes as the back door opened. Jasper and Bob pulled the body they held down to the trash cans and stopped. “Well, if'n that don't beat all. First we got us a Niger lover drinking our beer, and now we have a dirty slope-eyed vagrant going through our leavings.” Jasper said, as the head of an old oriental man rose from behind the cans. Bob looked at the small man dressed in an odd tattered patch work overcoat. The man came up to the group with his head lowered. Jasper let go of Luke's arm and walked forward. The weight of Luke's body was too much for Bob to sustain. So, he let Luke drop to the ground. Luke twisted as he fell and saw the two men come up to the small man in the multicolored coat. “Seems we got more trash to get rid of around here than we thought.” Bob said, as he came toe to toe with the small man. From out of his battered eyes, Luke saw the small man's face. He blinked to clear away some blood. Luke noticed the small man had golden orbs inside his small head. “Well Tojo! It's time to pay for your breakfast.” Jasper said, and reached for the man.

Luke barely saw the small man's arms move as Jasper fell backward clutching his throat. Bob stepped back, but was caught in the chest by the small man's feet. In the next second, Luke heard the sound of air escaping from Jasper’s throat. Luke managed to stand and look at the twitching bodies on the ground, both of which had their necks opened and blood erupting from severed veins and arteries. Luke felt weak and was about to stumble when the oriental caught his arm. With the small man's help, Luke walked around the building and to his truck. “Better get in. They'll be out here soon.” Luke said, to the little man as he pulled himself into the seat. The mysterious man nodded and went to enter the other door. Calls from the bar caught Luke's attention as he started the truck and put it in gear. As the truck rolled back, the door opened and the man entered. Luke saw a group of shouting men burst from the bar yelling and pointing at the truck. Luke floored the gas pedal and sped away.

Luke Holland drove to Doc Holiday's house. With the help of the oriental, he made his way to the door. After the second fast rap, the door swung open. Mrs. Holiday took one look at Luke's condition and screamed for her husband. Ben came running, and helped his wife bring Luke into the treatment room. They gently helped him to the examination table. Then she went about laying out the items necessary to treat the countless cuts on the young man. The examination also revealed three fractured ribs and a broken finger. The Doc had his wife continue treating the countless cuts and bruises, while he taped up the ribs and splinted his finger. Patching him up took over an hour and several stitches. “Where'd this happen, young man?” The Doc asked. “Duck `N’ Buck.” Luke winced, as the words came out. “Who did this?” “Just some ‘good ole boys’.” Luke replied, through gritted teeth. “How'd you get away from them?” Doc pondered out loud. Luke nodded toward the quiet figure standing by the door. “By the way, thanks for saving my ass. Excuse the language, Mrs. Holiday.” The small man only stood there and watched, his expression never changing. “That's all we can do for you now, but you should rest up a bit.” Mrs. Holiday said, as she started cleaning the area. “Here. Take two of these now, and then one or two every six hours after that for the pain.” The doctor said and handed Luke a bottle of medication and a paper cup of water. “When was your last tetanus shot?” Luke received a tetanus shot and instructions for care of his wounds, along with an appointment card telling him when to return to have his stitches checked and follow up treatment for his finger and ribs. “How are you fixing to pay for the treatment, son? Do you have insurance?” Doc asked, as Luke gingerly got off the table. Luke thought a moment and was about to answer when the small man touched the Doctor's arm. Doc turned, and for the first time, took a good hard look at this man. The Doc tried to place the bone structure and skin tone to a race but his focus was shifted when he looked at the man's golden eyes. The little man lifted his hand and made a circle in the air, then drew a cross in the center of the whirl. “You work for Mister Odhinsunar?” Doc asked, trying to see deeper into the eyes. The man lowered his head as he nodded. “That's fine by me. I guess I can write it up as workers injury. You going to report this to the police?” He asked regarding both men. “Doc, you don't understand. The police were there. This is their calling card. Besides, there's a couple who cannot tell their side of this story anyway.” Doc turned sharply and grabbed Luke's good arm. “Are you telling me that you killed somebody out there?” He whispered. A small hand tapped the Doc's shoulder. Doc and Luke saw the man tap himself on the chest. “Who are you, anyway? I've never seen you at the farm.” Luke asked the man. The man turned around and walked out. Luke followed as he entered the truck. Luke waved back to the Doc and started the engine checking his watch; it read eleven fifty five.

Luke thought of his wife and son. He drove to the market and saw them coming out with two carts. He pulled up and stopped the truck. He had a little trouble exiting and walking around to Susan. “What on earth happened to you?!” Susan cried out, as she caught sight of him. “Just had a couple of beers and I guess the tip wasn't good enough.” Luke tried to say jokingly, through swollen lips. The medication was starting to take the edge off. “How did you get here? Where are you hurt?” Susan asked, as she touched his forehead. “My feet are just fine. It's all the rest that's not so hot.” Luke said, as he leaned on the truck for support. “Let's load up. I'll introduce you to the man who saved me.” Luke tried to lift a sack but the pain took over as his knees buckled. Susan took the bag and placed it in the truck bed. A little man appeared beside her and quickly started placing the bags in the truck. “Who are you?” She asked, but was ignored by the fast little man as he continued his task. “Is this the man you mentioned a minute ago?” Luke nodded as the last bag went in. The man went to the front of the truck. Susan walked over and held Luke's arm as she brought him around to the cart where their son waited, and picked him up with her other arm. She guided Luke to the door and looked for the little man in the overcoat. She couldn't see him in the truck. Susan opened the door and her son cried out, “Kitty, kitty!” Susan viewed the cab. There sat a large calico cat, in the center of the bench seat. Luke entered and sat next to the cat. Susan handed the child over and got behind the steering wheel. “Drive to the farm, and hurry!” Luke said, eyeing the calico. Susan started to ask why, but thought better as she pulled out onto the road and headed south.

The sound of sirens was heard as she got out of the truck. The cat jumped over Luke and ran to the barn. Susan looked to Luke, then to the road as several police cars screeched to a halt and deputies exited with their guns drawn. “Put your hands up and walk this way, slowly!” A deputy called out, over his radio loud speaker. Susan was stunned and stared open-mouthed at Luke and the deputies. “I said, put your hands in the air!” The deputy’s voice, blasted over the loud speaker again. Susan saw a large black car pull in next. Judge Hart came out of the back. Another man exited the car also and Susan noticed that he was very young copy of the older man by comparison. “What's going on here?” The Judge called out to the deputy. “We got us a murderer in that truck and we're here to take him in.” The deputy answered, just as another police car pulled up and the sheriff stood out. “Why are you just standing there? Get that dirty son of a bitch out of that truck.” Jake Thomas shouted at his deputy. Susan started to cry, as the man began walking forward. She picked up their son and placed his head on her shoulder, covering his eyes with her other hand to block out this terrible scene. Luke opened the door and painfully crawled out of the truck. He leaned on the truck, as steady as he could manage, as the deputy trained his gun on his target. “That's him. Go on, get him!” The sheriff called out again. The deputy moved to the side of the truck and started to cock his pistol. “Drop to the ground! Put your face in the dirt!” The deputy ordered. “I haven't done anything.” Luke answered quietly, holding his ribs with his free hand. “That's resistance! Shoot him!” Sheriff Thomas ordered loudly. The deputy was about to follow his instructions, when he felt the gun leap from his grasp and his hand began to throb with pain. The pistol spun to the ground and fired harmlessly into the dirt, and the horseshoe that caused it, fell to the ground in a cloud of dust. “Stop where you are!” The ominous voice of Mister Odhinsunar, covered the farmyard.

Through her tears, Susan saw the hulking form striding across the yard from the barn. “He's obstructing justice. Arrest him too!” Sheriff Thomas yelled, as he grabbed two more deputies and pushed them forward. The deputies went forward with their guns held high at the giant walking toward them. “Judge Hart, this could be considered an Act of War!” Mister Odhinsunar stated, firmly. The deputies stopped and turned uncertainly to Sheriff Thomas, awaiting further instructions. “What's he talking about? Arrest him, NOW!” Thomas yelled. “Not so fast, Sheriff. He's telling the truth about a war.” Judge Hart said, loud enough for everyone to hear. Susan stared at the back of the man that Luke had so often talked about lately, and was about to faint when Luke placed his arm around her. “What's going to happen to us?” She pleaded in a low voice. Luke squeezed her arm trying to calm her, as new waves of pain, slightly diminished by the pills the Doc had given him earlier, rushed over him for his effort, and he became light headed again. He shifted his weight and leaned on the hood of the truck taking deep breaths trying to remain conscious. “I don't know.” Luke replied, his voice sounded like it was coming from a long way off to him. “Withdraw your troops from this land.” Mister Odhinsunar spoke, as he glared directly at the sheriff. “That man's a murderer and we are here to take him in.” The sheriff shouted back. “Maybe in your country he is, but not in mine.” Mister Odhinsunar stated, his voice brooking no argument, regarding the Judge intently. Paul Jr. spoke for the first time, “May I enter Mister Oh?” “Come forth.” The giant answered, in a low calm tone. “What do you mean your country? We're in Louisiana, and that man is wanted for murder.” Sheriff Thomas said, as his own pistol came out and he walked forward. “Sheriff! Put down that gun. You are not in Louisiana, any more!” Judge Hart called out. “You deputies, come back here and move these cars, now!” The Judge insisted and waited for his orders to be followed. “Judge! Have you gone soft in the head? We're standing in the state of Louisiana, in the town of New Hope.” The Judge shook his head slowly and stated, “Sheriff, right now you are standing in the country of Icelandia. You’ve crossed its borders with armed troops, without invitation. Now get your ass back here before you do something of greater stupidity, then you already have!” Judge Hart spoke, with enormous tension in his voice. Paul had been speaking quietly and quickly to Luke and came up to Mister Odhinnsunar's side and said loudly, “Mister Ambassador, this family would like to be granted sanctuary here.” “AYE. They have my country’s protection!” Came the response from the giant. “Sheriff, move back, NOW!” Judge Hart roared, at the end of his patience. “If the sheriff does not follow this court’s order, may the deputies be allowed to enter long enough to place him under arrest, Mister Ambassador?” Judge Hart asked. “You’re going to arrest me, with my own deputies? Are you crazy?” The sheriff glared at the judge, boiling mad, his face turning a deep unhealthy scarlet. “If he does not withdraw, in the next ten seconds, there will be no need for him to be arrested.” Mister Odhinnsunar's low tones, echoed off the now moving police cars. “Well, this is just plain Bullshit!” The sheriff cried out, while turning toward Luke and his wife. The crowd viewed the pistol raising, as the hammer started to cock. Paul saw this also, and started for the sheriff. Before anyone could stop Thomas, the shot was fired at Luke. Instantly, the sheriff was hurled into the air toward the cars, as the sound of a ricocheting bullet was heard by the crowd. As the sheriff hit the ground the pistol bounced away and the sheriff passed out. “Are you hurt?” Paul cried out to Luke. “No, not a bit. What happened?” Luke asked gazing around. He saw the black goat standing in front of him and the white one standing over the unconscious sheriff's body. “Damn! Where'd those things come from?” One deputy spoke the thought of all present. “You may have him now. If he ever crosses this border again, he will be placed in the burning pit.” Mister Odhinsunar said, sternly to Judge Hart. “If you have cause to seek extradition, please contact my envoy.” He continued, as turned toward Luke and his family, effectively dismissing the crowd. “You are safe here. Come, tell me of this trouble that brings you.” Mister Odie said, gently guiding Luke to the barn, leaving the rest of the group to follow. Paul took Susan's elbow and escorted her, just a step behind. “Pick that up! Take it to the doctor, and then bring it to my chambers!” Judge Heart told, the deputies standing around, pointing to the sheriff. As the judge got into his car, he looked out as the sheriff was being placed in one police car. His gaze came back across the yard and stopped on the rams. 'Taylor never knew what hit him', he thought as he backed out of the drive. When the last patrol car was out of sight, the rams turned and walked majestically to the barn.

“That’s the whole story. I still don't know where that little man got off to or how your cat got into the truck.” Luke finished, as the rams entered. The black ram came to Mister Odie and bleated once. Mister Odie knelt down and rubbed his horns. “Just a scratch. The ringing will go away soon. It was a job well done. Now, go out and play you two.” Mister Odie smiled, and shook the ram's head. The rams turned and started to leave. “Thanks, you two. I owe you, big time.” Luke spoke out. Susan looked at Luke and she wondered why he had just said thank you to two animals as if they could understand him. “How did they know what was going on out there?” He asked Mister Odie. “Why ask how? It’s enough to be thankful and show it.” Mister Odie answered the puzzled Luke. “Now. For this evening, you'll have to stay here. When the house if finished, you will remain there until Paul talks with his father about the charges.” “We can't leave this barn?” Susan asked, studying her surroundings. “Not just yet. Wait here until I get back from my father's. With this tape, and all the eyewitnesses, we should have the charges dropped on Luke, when we talk to Doc Holiday.” Paul said, as he placed the tape recorder in his briefcase. “Mister Oh, what about this oriental man? Where do you think he is?” Paul asked, as he stopped at the doors. “When, and if he's needed, he'll be around. However, Paul, he can't answer any questions.” Mister Oh answered. “Don't speak English, huh?” Paul asked. “He does not speak at all, unless he is hungry, I suppose.” Mister Odie said, with a smile and looked toward the calico cat, with its golden eyes blazing back at him.

It took Paul only thirty minutes, after Doc Holiday made his statement, to have the charges dropped on Luke Holland. The police now were looking for a small oriental man, wearing a tattered patchwork overcoat, for questioning in the deaths of Jasper Cooper and Bob Jones. As Paul was leaving, the sheriff was being escorted into his father's chambers. Before Paul could close the door, he heard his father's voice echo off the walls. “You ignorant sorry excuse for a law officer. If I could get twelve honest men in this town for a jury, I'd have you sent away for life. Now, you sit there and get this straight . . .” Paul closed the door and made his way out of the court house. Paul breathed easily outside. Nevertheless, he knew his father's temper and remembered the times he had to sit and endure the endless lectures that he received growing up. Of course, they were nothing compared to the one the sheriff was engulfed in now. But then, he never came close to starting a war with a small country. Paul drove off and laughed, thinking that the sheriff would be there for at least two hours, maybe longer. Yes, his father could talk, but then that's much better. When he gets quiet and passes a ruling, those stay forever. As Paul pulled into the farmyard, he noticed several men standing at the barn.

Jim and Willie walked out talking with Mister Odie. “We jest thinks it'd be the right thing to do. Ifn' yo wants to, Mista Odie.” Jim was saying. “Of course. It sounds like the thing we need today.” Mister Odie said, with a smile as he saw Paul approaching. “We may even have more to be thankful for, if Paul has good news.” Mister Odie pondered. “The charges have been dropped, with the statement Doc made, and under the circumstances. The Judge ruled self-defense, but he still wants to talk to the oriental guy.” “Good! Now go and tell the Hollands, Paul. Then tell your father that I will have the man come by tonight at ten p.m. He can answer yes or no questions just fine. Then you can have your intended come with you to a party here tonight.” Mister Odie replied. “A party?” Paul asked stopping in mid-stride. “We all decided to throw Mista Odie a party here tonight. He was nice enough to us last week so it is only fit'n we all do the same fo' him.” Jim told Paul. “Our womenfolk be fixin' a mess o' fried chicken, with all the trimmins right now. We is gonna load up and be back 'round six.” Willie spoke up, his eyes lighting up in anticipation. “I’ll have to stop by Tamry's on the way back and ask, but I'm sure we'll be able to attend.” Paul said, to the group and started to the barn. “Paul.” Mister Oh said, stopping Paul's progress, “please convey an invitation to Madam Greenwood also.” “Will do, Mister Oh.” Paul replied, and continued to the barn with a smile on his lips to spread joy and good will.

“Around ten tonight? That's an odd hour to question a person who claims to have taken down two strong men.” Judged Hart said, to Paul as he poured some brandy into his glass. “That's the time Mister Oh stated, Father. I'm sure you could set your watch to that. Remember, just yes and no questions. Seems the guy is mute or something.” Paul said. “Damn! A mute oriental man, working for an Icelandic diplomat, on a farm in a backwoods Louisiana town. A man able to pull out the throats of two men and sever the spinal cords with just his hands. This town is getting to be as weird as a King novel.” The judge recanted, as he downed his brandy in one gulp. “Are you going to be here to represent this guy?” He asked Paul, as he put down his empty glass. “Not that I know of. Mister Oh didn't say anything about it. I'm supposed to go to a party the workers are giving Mister Oh.” “Workers giving their boss a party? What next? Are they going to run him for Mayor next election?” The judge raised his voice and poured another drink. “I don't think Mister Oh has any political agendas right now. Still, if he treats all his workers as he did yesterday, they'd probably vote him in as king.” Paul said, with a chuckle. “That's not funny, Paul. Many people around here would like to overthrow your 'Mister Oh' right now. You had best keep your wits about you, now more then ever.” The judge said, in a low tone. “Why?” “Because, an hour ago, I fired Jake Thomas, and a wounded animal is the worst animal around. So you best keep yourself ready for whatever happens next.” The judge spoke, as he stared through the French doors out to the garden. Paul stood and walked to his father's side. “Dad, I have a question to ask you.” Paul said softly, as he placed his hand on his father's shoulder. “Dad? You haven't called me that since you asked me to buy you a car for your sixteenth birthday.” Judge Hart said, and regarded his son curiously. “This is more important than a car. It's about a woman.” “You haven't gone out and got some young woman in trouble, have you son?” The judge questioned, with a raised eyebrow. “No, Dad. A young woman went out and got me into trouble. I fell in love with her and I want to marry her.” Paul said straight faced. The judge studied the look in his son's eyes and the serious look on his face. “When do you want this to happen?” The judge asked softly as he stood and placed his hands on Paul's shoulders. “Last week would do, but I think next Saturday will be a fine day.” Paul said grinning. “Just who is this woman who's got my son in so much trouble?” The judge asked, and returned to his desk to sit in his overstuffed leather chair. “Tamry Greenwood, from the bank. We've been going out for about four years.” Paul said. He remembered that this part of his family life had been strained since his mother had died. For the past five years of Paul's young life, he had completed his studies and finished law school. The relationship with Tamry had been put on hold, as both charted their own careers and dreams. Paul and his father's relationship were at the best of these times, placid. Nevertheless, since his arrival he had been living back in his father's house and through the workings of Mister Odhinsunar, he had been exposed to his father's scrutiny. To his amazement, Paul even received some compliments for the defense of his client, and even, his fast thinking in the Holland situation at the farm. Now Paul was standing in his father's study, telling him of the most important decision that would affect his whole life. “Do you want my blessing for this marriage?” Judge Hart asked. “Not only that, I want you to preform the ceremony.” Paul said, with a hopeful expression on his face. “I think that can be arranged. I would have thought you would have preferred the church.” Judge Hart answered. “Well, we thought about doing that, but I don't think our best man would be invited in.” Paul replied, as the thought brought a smile to his lips. “Oh? Just who would that be?” His father asked, having a good idea already. “Mister Oh, if he agrees. We were going to ask him tonight.” Paul said, and saw a smile come to his father's face. “I can see your point about that. Presently, or in the next few hours, Mister Oh's reputation should be all over the entire township. Major problems could be brewing and I think some lines are forming. As a good lawyer you should be prepared to remain neutral.” Judge Hart inflected. “As a lawyer, you are completely right, but as an envoy, my loyalties are for Mister Oh, in all things. Besides, I didn't have any intent to remain in New Hope for more than a few days, then you cast me into `wonderland' that first morning. I guess I'm caught up in all this, so I'll stay where I'm needed the most.” Paul said strongly. “You know what you're up against. Things can get out of hand, in short notice. I want you to be careful until all this blows over.” Judge Hart said, as he stood and walked Paul to the door. “We can talk more about your wedding details when I meet this young woman that has your heart so tied up. Let's say dinner, Monday night at seven. I'll have Charles prepare your favorite. You still like steak, don't you?” He finished putting his arm around his son's shoulder, something that he couldn't remember doing in years and realizing that it felt good to be close again. “T-bones, two inches thick, medium-rare with mushrooms, and a baked potato. Yeah, whenever I can find them.” Paul laughed. “Then, that's what we'll have for you two.” Paul Sr. said, and opened the door. Paul nodded to Charles, as he made his way out of the house and to his car. At Tamry's house, and for the next couple of hours, he gave his complete life's story to Mrs. Greenwood. Tamry sat quietly as her mother covered the past, present, and more importantly, the further plans of her soon to be son-in-law. Paul was quite relieved to hear that she was giving her blessings to the union, but still held reservations on where they planed to wed. “The church would be better than that old lake out by the farm, and much more proper.” Mrs. Greenwood expressed her views. “Mom, I'm only going to do this once. I think Paul and I have picked the perfect place for our wedding. We can't think of any other place in the world that means as much to us as that lake.” Tamry said, as Paul placed an arm around her. “You're right dear. It's your day. I just hope it doesn't rain Saturday and ruin it for you.” Mrs. Greenwood said, and stood to go to the kitchen. “If it does, then we get wet. I don't see any problems with that.” Tamry called out, to her mother and Paul squeezed her closely. When Mrs. Greenwood returned and the plans had been partially settled, Paul extended the invitation that Mister Oh had sent earlier. In Mrs. Greenwood opinion, he was a thoughtful young man for including her, however she declined graciously, and wondered why such a man was unattached.

Jake Thomas, stormed through the Duck `N’ Buck about four p.m., still furious after his dressing-down, and termination. All the patrons’ attention was riveted on the cussing man. His hands waved about toward a few men, as he walked to the hall. It took only a minute for the hall to be filled with men bringing their drinks, taking seats, and talking spiritedly about the unjust treatment of Thomas. Thomas was given a pitcher of beer and a glass, which he shattered against the back wall with a fling. The sound of exploding glass effectively quieted the room and he glared out at the crowd. “That son of a bitch fired me! Me! I've been the sheriff of this damn town for over ten years. All over a Niger loving foreign bastard, thinking he can just come in here and set up his own damn country.” Thomas yelled, and drank straight from his pitcher. “What you want to do, Jake? Burn him out or hang him?” A voice called out from the assemblage. “Both! I want to take out the rest of those bastards who stand by him, too. I say we do the whole bunch together. We just gun them down where they stand.” Thomas shot back. “You go and do that, and you better just shoot yourself on the spot.” Arnold Johnson said, as the door opened. “Damn It! We've got to do something to show the people we are still in charge here.” Thomas protested. “We'll do something all right. However, we will do what I say, and when I say to do it.” Johnson said loudly. Johnson pulled a chair out and sat on the platform. He scanned the on-looking faces of the men and saw that they were waiting for the orders that they knew would follow. “First off, Jake, how many people are we talking about here?” Johnson asked. “The first person I want is that little prick, Holland. He cost me my job. I want him for myself. Next on the list should include the Prices. They started bringing their kind out there and without that, the others wouldn't have followed.” Thomas pronounced, his death warrants on all those who posed a problem to the Knights. The names included, after an impassioned speech that lasted ten minutes, Judge Hart and his son, the entire Price family, the Douglas brothers, and Martin Proctor. Someone reminded Jake of the grocery store owner, the Stones, and Tamry Greenwood, whose names were also placed on the warrant. The total was seventeen when Johnson said. “Let's not forget the head of the snake.” Mister Odhinnsunar's name was written in last. “Anyone who gets in our way will just be gravy over the meat!” Thomas said coldly. “Now, we have to come up with a plan to do them together. Any thoughts on the matter?” Johnson asked. “How about we just drive by and gun them down, like over in Atlanta?” One man yelled out. “How do we get them all to stand still for that?” Another man questioned. Silence filled the hall as the men thought. “Many of them were out there last Saturday. Some kind of party or something I think.” A man in the front said, as he stood. “That was then. You think they throw them every Saturday?” Johnson sneered. “We could do what I just heard about on T.V. These people over in the middle east just went around and grabbed a bunch of people off the street and out of their houses. They took the bunch out in the desert and just did them.” A burly man said, from the table next to the platform. “That happens all the time over there. Nobody ever gets caught, either. They wear masks, and use stolen-cars. Besides, the people they get never say a word afterwards.” Another man said, with a cunning laugh. Johnson and Thomas considered one another and thought this action over. “Couldn't be on a Saturday? Nobody could be sure where they are that night. I'd think maybe a Tuesday or better, a Wednesday. The men would be tired, after three, er, four days of work. Being the middle of the week, the rest will be home without any plans for leaving town.” Johnson said, as a concrete plan was forming in his mind. “We best do it at night, maybe around nine or ten. We could get some vans somewhere and just herd them out to that farm.” Thomas added. “What about the bodies?” The question came from an unidentified voice in the crowd. “After we've had our fun, we could just drop them all in that burning hole he's got dug in that field. We make it look like one of those cult things, like in Texas. You know, mass suicide.” The burly man spoke out. The next hours were spent with Johnson and Thomas refining their plans of action. It was decided that at nine p.m. on the coming Wednesday, all of the victims would be picked up by several different means, and when they were all gathered, the fun would begin. The giant to be the last to see the rest go, starting with the Price's children.

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