Follows A Violent Winter. Scene 1.
“It amazes me how you managed to string him along for so long.”
“I didn’t do much. He was the one who asked me to meet with him. I…I only…went along with him and did what he asked.”
“You only managed to make friends with the son of the richest man in town! You wouldn’t have found out about that gold train otherwise. We’re going to be rich! Think about it, after tomorrow we can be a family, you, Jamie and me.” Jefferson twirled his thick black moustache. “Won’t that be wonderful?”
Selena stared at the three men sitting across the table from her. Each one of them was unshaven, muscular, and had a distinct air of danger around them. However, there was one man who had more appeal than the rest.
When she had immigrated to America after the war, he had spotted her on the dock, alone and frightened. He had offered her his protection and helped her make a life for herself. In so many ways, she owed him her very life.
“Listen.” Jefferson leaned across the table and focused his piercing blue stare on Selena. He lowered his voice so that only she could hear it. “Last night I gave Little Jimmie what he deserved for gettin you pregnant. Some of the gang are still mad that I took him out. Watch‘em carefully if I‘m not around. Understand?”
Selena nodded as the knife of fear stabbed through her.
“And you make sure that you have Jamie waitin for us at two thirty. The gold is due to be unloaded then. We’ll need his little fingers to work the lock on the safe.”
“I’ll be there.” Selena shivered as a picture of Walter’s smiling face flashed across her mind. “You won’t…you won’t hurt anyone…will you?”
“Do I look like the kinda man who likes hurtin people?” Jefferson grinned, revealing the sparkle of a gold tooth. “We’re all good boys, aren’t we boys?”
The men on either side of him smiled. One of them sent a dirty stream of tobacco juice toward the wooden floor and then began to speak.
“Selena you did good. Real good. At first I didn’t believe Jefferson when he told me that you’d make us rich. I’m sure glad he proved me wrong.” Larry stuck another plug of chewing tobacco between his lips and began to chew. “Don’t let it go to your head though. We’ll be watchin your every move tomorrow. Don’t you forget it.”
Selena wilted as his sour breath filled her nostrils.
“Alright boys, that’s enough!” Jefferson slammed his fist upon the table for emphasis. “Go on now. We need some alone time.”
“Sure boss.” Larry laughed as he winked.
“An get my car started while you’re out there. We can’t stay in this town long.”
“Sure. Sure.” Larry waved at Pete, who stood and joined him by the door. After a quick glance at Selena, the two men left.
“Listen. I know I’m a thief. People will yak about us, but I don’t care. After this job, I promise I’ll go straight,no matter what it takes.” Jefferson’s voice took on a distinct threatening tone. “Sendin you to rich Walter was just business. Understand?” He stared into her eyes. “Trust me. You don’t need him when you’ve got me. Understand?”
Selena took breath but said nothing.
“Understand?” Jefferson was angry now, it wouldn’t do to keep him waiting.
“Good.” Jefferson released his grip on her arm. “Now I better sneak outta this town while the sneakin is good. I’ll see ya tomorrow.” The floor creaked as Jefferson strode across it.
A wooden door slammed and then he was gone.
Jamie had watched the whole scene through a crack in the bathroom door. After the men had gone he had watched his mother deflate into her wooden rocking chair.
She wasn’t crying. She never did. However, it was obvious from her expression that something was seriously wrong.
Jamie left his hiding place and moved toward her. She invited him to climb onto his lap, which he did willingly. Together they sat, mother and son, enjoying each other’s company.
“Momma, do I have to do what Jefferson said?”
“Yes. We talked about this, remember?”
“We did. But I don’t want to help him.”
“Maybe not, but remember he much he’s helped us. We owe him everything.” Selena sighed. “Jamie. Right now I need your help for something else.”
“I need to go out for awhile. You stay here and mind the room, won’t you?”
“Good boy.” She wrapped her son in a powerful embrace. “No matter what happens, don’t let anyone inside. Alright?”
“Good. Now be a dear and fetch my purse. Make it quick.”
Mildred sniffed as she surveyed snow-packed street at her feet. There were wanted posters for Jefferson up all over the county. How that swine had managed to sneak into town without being arrested was a question for the ages. Why he was involved with Selena was another, more, pressing question.
A question she would have answered or her name wasn’t Mildred Heckensnick!
The gas streetlights lining the street began to flicker on as the darkness of evening descended upon the town.
The front door of the hotel flew open and then Selena was charging through it.
Mildred saw her opportunity and thrust her cane forward, sending her prey somersaulting down the wooden steps toward the street.
“Why did you trip me?” Selena’s eyes flashed fire as she stared up at her enemy.
“Why did you run? I just wanted to talk to you.”
“Did you follow me?”
“Yes, I saw that you were disturbed after our little visit. I wanted to talk to you some more about it. So, yes, I followed you.”
“You shouldn’t have done that.” She pulled her coat closer to her body.
“Why not?” Mildred licked her lips as she moved closer to her prey. “Is there something going on that an honest citizen shouldn’t know about?”
“No!” Selena pulled away from her clawing hands. “Why would you ask a question like that?”
“I saw Jefferson Little and some of his men sneak out of the Hotel just before you did.”
“What does that have to do with me?” Selena took another step backward as fear shot through her.
“Nothing I hope.”
“Listen Mildred, if you know what’s good for you, just leave Jefferson Little alone.”
“I’m just concerned about you darling. You’re a sweetheart. Why would you associate with men like that?”
“I’m old enough to keep the company I like!” With that Selena had lifted her skirt and began striding along the street of snow.
For a moment, Mildred considered the option of chasing her, then, decided against it.
There was nothing to be gained by pressuring a woman that didn’t want to be pressured. She would be patient. One of these days the truth would come to light. As for the issue of Jefferson Little, she knew exactly what to do about that.
Mildred was a good citizen and she would do her duty.
Everyone in town, especially Selena, was in danger with a pig like that around.
The Sheriff’s office wasn’t that far away.
It didn’t take Mildred long to reach it.
The newspapers said that Jefferson Little was a man of surprises. Perhaps the Sheriff could arrange a suitable surprise for a murderous thief like him.
It would be exactly what that swine deserved for his crimes.
To be continued…