Archive for November, 2016

Silver Cotton, Chap 1, part 5

These two men were less than one and trusting them to care for an injured man worried her. “Listen to me. Those girls need to get home.” She looked outside at the approaching night. “Now.”  She walked around to their side of the bed. She figured direct eye contact would help. “So, please take them to the central market in Plainville where their folks are waiting. Then get the doctor and the sheriff. Bring them here. I’ll stay with Mr. Coffman.”

They nodded and started out. “By the way, where is the brother? I heard he has a brother.”

“He lives at the lake, ma’am, but by the time we get your errands done, it’ll be too late to get to the lake and back.”

“My errands?” She toned down her temper. Curiosity took over. “What lake? Oh never mind, just get moving.” She soon heard the team pulling her choir girls home, but their usual singing and giggles had ceased. She didn’t blame them. Their new driver required two heads.

Wondering when Molesley and Herman would return with help, Dianna started exploring the small four room house for supplies. She was pleased with the apparent cleanliness and the lack of clutter, but not the lack of medical needs.

Her patient hadn’t responded or moved, even when she wrapped his ribs with her own torn petticoat. She wanted to get some warm soup, or at least water into him. She had cleaned his bruises and cuts and wiped his lips with a clean rag soaked in cool water. She lit candles and took note of the home decorations, as limited as they were. Either Mr. Coffman was married with children or the Jacksons left in a hurry. The mixed pictures were not uncommon, just not helpful.

The shouts from outside froze her progress. “Coffman, get out here. We’re not done.” The laughter of at least a half dozen men urged Dianna toward the gun rack. She knew nothing about guns. She didn’t like guns. Her parents wanted her to carry one when she insisted on chaperoning the choirs.

“Why would I need a gun in church?”

Her father’s sarcasm and quick wit often sent his message loud and clear. “A woman responsible for a black female choir traveling in the swamps of North Carolina? Well now, you’ll probably be arrested for being stupid.”

She grabbed what looked like the most dangerous of the collection. An outside warning shot dashed her decision about whether her choice of weapon would be loaded or not. It was too late.

 

 

 

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Silver Cotton, Chap 1, Part 4

“Yes ma’am, it’s about another mile just down there. The Coffman brothers bought the old Jackson farm last winter. He’s been to our house asking Papa if he needed work.”

“Ah good, well then, we’ll lift him into the wagon and take him to his brother.” She directed two girls to each limb and she supported his head and shoulders. Together the ladies got the victim resting between sixteen feet, and Dianna convinced the team of horses to get them to the old Jackson farm.

****

“Be careful. Don’t drop him. Back up slowly.” Dianna directed the girls and two farm hands, who had been resting on the porch, to place the man on the hastily made bed in the small farm house. “Thank you everyone. Now, where are the medical supplies? Maybe they’re in a box in the kitchen? Bring in fresh water for the….where is his pitcher and bowl, the commode? Mr….um”

“Molesley, ma’am, and this here is my brother, Herman. We’ve been working for Mr. Coffman for a few months now, but we’ve never seen a commode. There’s a bowl in the kitchen. Want me to fetch it?”

“Yes please.” Much to her surprise both men went out of the room. “Girls, every one of you, help each other to water and feed the horses and then wait outside.” They went as a group and Dianna took in a fortified breath.

Molesley and Herman returned with water and bowl. “Sorry ma’am, no box for medicines. Maybe we could tear that sheet he’s on. You know, for the blood.”

That word had Dianna twisting her head back to her patient. Thankfully, there was little evidence of open wounds, just rapid bruising, but she knew there might be painful things happening internally. “There’s no more sheets? Are there any towels?”

“None that we’ve seen.”

Or used, evidently. Oh, try to be nice, Dianna sighed. “We need a doctor and the sheriff. Molesley, you get them and Herman….”

“Sorry ma’am,” Molesley interrupted, “but, we don’t….”

“Oh, let me guess.” She tried not to be mean, but damn, she was frustrated. “If you go you go together.” They simultaneously hung their heads and Dianna didn’t laugh, but she wanted to. She made a decision.

 

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After lectures from her about his hard work an long hours on their jointly owned farm, and promises to stay longer during his next visit, he finally headed west and let Jenny lead him home. The shade-worthy live oak limbs and Spanish moss covered the bend in the lazy road. He felt his muscles slug, and he let his guard drop to a sleepy level, a rare event.

The six riders who came out of the shadows found him ridiculously unprepared. “Stand and hold!”

“What the….?” Edward reached for his weapon, but their shot stung his hand, and he bent over in pain.

When they pulled him from his wagon, Jenny overreacted and bolted, talking his wagon with her. The kick-jabs into his ribs hurt, but the fourth blow to his head darkened his world.

****

Dianna slowed her team of horses to safely make the bend in the road, and she turned around at her waist to face the giggles. “Ladies, really, what’s so humorous? That Baptist revival wasn’t meant to be entertaining to you. You were the entertainment.” The tug on her hold of the reins returned her attention to her horses and the road. The team stopped and pranced nervously and refused to proceed. “Settle down.” Dianna set the wagon’s brake and called to her young charges, “Stay here, girls. I’ll just be a moment. There’s something in the road frightening the horses.”

It frightened her too. The body was still, bloody, and bruised, but he appeared to be breathing. She gingerly bent closer. “Sir, may we help you? Sir?” No answer.

“Who is he, Miss Dianna?”

“Cecelia, please get back in the wagon. Whoever did this might still be around.”

“Oh, I doubt it, miss. Momma says cowards usually runs. It was cowards who beat this man.” Cecelia slowly walked around the body. “I know him! Sally Mae, come down here.”

Sally and a few others took the opportunity to stretch their legs. “Oh no, poor Mr. Coffman!” Her huge dark eyes jumped to Dianna’s speechless expression. “Papa has a job with him. Starts tomorrow, I think. Momma and Papa will be upset not to get this job.”

Dianna shook her head as if too much information needed settling. “So, you know where he lives?”

 

 

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Silver Cotton, Chap 1, part 2

“That’s why I need to get back to the farm. I’m expecting a dozen or so families to apply for seasonal work. We both need to be there. Can you come out?”

“Yes, I’ll try, but I promised Catherine some help around here.” He wiped his brow. “This is the time when we miss Charles. I mean we miss him other times too, but we sure could use him now. Have you heard from him?”

Edward jumped up onto the buggy’s seat and bent to pick up Jenny’s strings. “Yes, his last letter said he had been accepted, enrolled, and had started classes in constitutional law. He said he’s being teased about being British.”

“I’ll bet he is.” His smile dimmed to a realization. “I’m proud of him. UNC-Chapel Hill Law School isn’t too shabby.”

“Not at all. What about Ross?” He nodded toward the porch crowded with family. “Is he available?”

“He just told me he’d help, but Trev, if there’s trouble….”

They both looked on the porch as a seated and pregnant Joanne beamed up at a proud father-to-be. “I agree. We’ll leave him out of it, unless needs be.”

“It’s been a great family gathering. We missed Charles, but grateful that you….”

“Uncle Edward!” An exuberant and muddy boy ran up from the bluff and attempted an attack. “You’re here!”

“Wait, Burke, I’ll get down. You’ll upset Jenny.” Once on the ground, he caught his adopted nephew and tossed him up in an  uncle-hug. “Catch anything?”

“Nothing big enough for dinner.” His young face fell from pleased to disappointed. “Birthday girl will tease me.”

Edward put the boy down and joined him on his eye level. “Burke, if she teases you, ask her how many atlases she has. That’ll keep her quiet for five seconds.” He hugged him again and turned him toward the house. Burke passed Catherine on the stone walkway and she patted his head as she hurried forward to speak to her brother-in-law.

“Expecting to get away without being polite?”

“No, ma’am, I wouldn’t dream of insulting the best thing that ever happened to our family.” His brotherly hug and family compliment pleased Trevor.

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Silver Cotton, Chap. 1, part 1

“It’s not a pony, Uncle Edward, but I know you meant well.” Erin kissed his cheek and returned to her home, Gray Lace Cottage, with his gift under her arm.

“That’s her third atlas. Not bad for a six year old,” laughed his older brother.

Edward joined in the humor while he adjusted the bit on Jenny’s muzzle. “Maybe I’ll return with a pony.”

“Don’t you dare! Catherine has proclaimed that ponies are for ten year olds, and she’ll kick you out of her will if you bring one any sooner.” Trevor bent over to check the wheels on his brother’s buggy. “Listen, you can’t just drive out of here, drop off a birthday present, and leave. It’ll be dark soon.”

“I can and I must. I’m expecting trouble, Trev.”

“What kind of trouble?”

“Have you heard of Harold Mensing?”

“The priest in Plainville?”

“Preacher, Trev, they call them preachers in this country. We’re not in jolly old England anymore.”

“Quite yes, of course”, his smile faded. “I have heard he’s stirring up a ruckus about labor in the farm fields. Is that right?”

“That’s right. He announced from the pulpit last Sunday, ‘Farmers, pay your labor by quality of race.’ Trevor, he wants us to pay white field hands more or not hire Africans at all.”

“Good God, Edward, our harvest!” A warm summer breeze of Lake Wheatley ruffled his hair, and he thrust his hands on his hips. “What we do? We need that help. Unfortunately that man sounds powerful.”

 

 

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Chasing Justice (part five)

from Silver Cotton  (available December 10th)

Kirsten attacked. This battle was successful. She had spooked her prey and witnessed the reappearance of the Randolph daughter, Catherine.  Her reinforcements were charming folks indeed: Trevor Coffman and his brothers Edward and Charles from England, and Ross and Joanne Garret, a lovely but illegal marriage of black and white. Also, there were the adventurous Jacob and Ruth Newsome.  (All found in Gray Lace, released 2015)

Not many sunrises and sunsets later, Kirsten took yet another train ride. This time, she traveled home to New Orleans, in the company of a bounty hunter and her husband. They turned John Pettigrew over to the Louisiana law authorities, who took a dim view on murder, conspiracy, and excessive greed. She instructed the judge to place her husband in the dampest, darkest, most disgusting hole in the state.

Louisiana had the best.

Kirsten dedicated her time, money, and energy to her father’s dream: find, buy, and return Turner’s paintings to London’s Tate Art Museum. With excitement, she found and bought one, The Roman Waterfall. It hung in the Stewart home in Charleston. Traveling back to her city of victories would not be a chore, this time.

 

from Silver Cotton  (available December 16, 2016)

Chapter One appearing here soon.

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Chasing Justice (part four)

from Silver Cotton  (available December 10)

This train swayed as much as the one she had ridden from New Orleans to Savannah a few years ago. Kirsten steadied her writing desk and allowed her thoughts to glide to the window and beyond. Her time in Savannah had proven both productive and frustrating. She had rented a quaint home with views of one of the parks, shaded with low live oak branches and Spanish moss. The sounds of the fountains’ spilling water soothed and cooled the humid city air.

She had read every newspaper and magazine article about society welcoming and then embracing John and Jared Pettigrew. The daughters of Savannah requested their presence at concerts, teas, and balls. Kirsten managed to discretely appear as well, never allowing them to see her. She did allow brief glimpses, just enough to make them shake their heads in disbelief. The numerous masked balls made her observations easier, but not note-worthy, no hard evidence.

The papers soon posted a wedding announcement, followed by two death-by-drowning notices in the newlywed household. She knew there’d soon be another train to ride. Kirsten sensed a pattern. She smelled her theory. The smell of Pettigrew victims strengthened her theory from Savannah to Raleigh and then to Charleston, where her attacks finally became victorious.

“Ticket, miss?” It took her back a moment.

This ticket to Charleston had her enjoying her first class cabin. The slowing speed caused an increase in appreciation of the city’s beautiful scenery. During her first visit she had found John and Jared had not ceased to amaze. Within a week a society lady, Mrs. Randolph, had died of food poisoning.

Really? Again?

John Pettigrew’s name had been written in a gossip column as a friend of the widower, seen about town, at social events, and conducting business as a new associate.

Really? Again?

Mr. Randolph had soon remarried. Kirsten became concerned. Worse, there was a daughter and she had disappeared.

 

Part 5/5 coming soon from Silver Cotton  (available Dec. 10th)

 

 

 

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