Welcome to Tuesday Tales! This week I`ll be sharing excerpts from my 2013 NaNoWriMo novel, Laco Law – The Gnarled Oak. Laco Law is an M/M historical western romance, set in the fictional county of Laco, Texas in 1867.
This week our word prompt 'Meat’. In this excerpt Clayton and Zeke find themselves in the foreman`s cabin on the Price ranch. Two and two finally begin to make four, or does it?
A note for my readers: This is a gay romance novel, and so the romance that occurs is man on man. If this is not your cup of tea, no one will think less of you if you read no further.
As this is my NaNo work, it is quite rough. I do ask that you overlook any glaring mistakes you may find. Please do check out the other wonderful writers after you`re done reading by clicking on the Tuesday Tales link at the bottom. Thanks for stopping in!
There were four drawers to go through. The first, a long thin one, was situated directly under the scarred and ink-stained top of the desk. The remaining three ran down the right side, two smaller ones atop a large bottom drawer. I went for the long, thin one. The drawer pulled easily outward. Inside was nothing but a broken cedar pencil, two mangled goose-feather quills with broken nubs, and one empty jar of Scribe`s Black liquid ink. I glanced at Zeke. He met my look then returned to his duties.
Moving with as much haste as possible, I opened the remaining drawers. A field mouse skittered up and out of the large bottom drawer, leaving her nest with its three hairless babies to make a hasty escape. I closed the drawer after my heart settled down. Then I reopened it. The mouse nest was made out of shredded paper. I apologized for my actions, dumped the tiny rodents out of the nest then closed the drawer.
“Stinks like mouse piss,” Zeke commented as I began tugging thin strips of paper from the nest. Mama Mouse had done a good job. Twigs, small clumps of cow hair, several long strands of horsehair, a chunk of dried meat, and a generous helping of fluffy seed pods had made one lovely place for her and her children. The babies would probably die from exposure now.
“Damned mice piss on everything,” I replied. Zeke walked over to the desk.
“That would not be looked down upon.” I pushed the soaking wet nest across the desk. He flicked it back with three fingers.
“I`ll flatten. You paw in the piss,” he said. Gruff, strained, and forever rough his voice may now be, but I was growing to know him well enough to pick out an arrogant cast when it appeared.
“Hmm,” I grunted. Together we worked at that desk for quite a long time. My fingertips were sticky with rodent urine when we were done, but we had managed to piece together a shipping manifesto from last year’s roundup, minus a few small parts that had been ingested by Mama Mouse. The mangled missive was nothing of import: a listing of how many steers, calves, heifers, etc. that had been branded then shipped off in search of buyers.
Texas cattlemen had been suffering terribly due to the thought that their cattle might carry Texas fever, a disease that killed the northern breed of cattle but only seemed to sicken the longhorns. What appealed to us as we read over the ratty paper was the name of a shipping company down in Galveston. Price Cargo & Shipping Co. leaped out at us.
“Pretty convenient that he owns his own shipping fleet,” Zeke said as he worked the kinks out of his back. I ruminated on that for a moment.
“Could he have taken the longhorns to Galveston to avoid the problems overland to Kansas?” I asked as I looked up at my deputy. He ran a hand over the back of his neck. It slid under his hair. I really wished it could be my hand working at the knots under that ebony mass.
“Anything is possible,” Zeke said. “I would have. Why run the risk of being turned away at the Kansas border with Texas beef when you can fill up a ship and sail up the coast? The beef still gets to the markets in the east, and you avoid the middle man. Pretty damned smart if he did to be honest.”
“Big cow hide small package,” I whispered, my fingers tapping steadily on the edge of the mouse-chewed paper. “Is Charlie saying that Price is somehow sending more than cattle east?”
Zeke`s black eyes widened when what I said sank in. His body tightened like an over-wound clock. I watched in amazement as he exploded verbally. He paced the tiny cabin, his hands gesticulating wildly, his hair bouncing off his back his strides were so clipped and angry. I understood nothing that he said but a translation wasn`t required. The man was livid. I did cut into the tirade after another moment to ask what exactly had set him off like a faultily wired stick of TNT.
“For years I`ve been hearing tales of children disappearing. Many say it was the spirits of the dead who had not been buried properly. They move against the living, bringing illness and misfortune. The old women blamed the missing children on the walking spirits,” he said as he stood in front of the window.
“And you? I don`t suppose you cotton to such superstitious beliefs.” I got to my feet. A small bag flew across the room, hitting me in the chest before it fell to the desktop.
“You asked about totems before? Those are my herbs. Peony Rose gave them to me. I keep them close to appease her." I lifted the small bag crafted out of finely worked deer hide. I sniffed the soft doeskin. It was filled with fragrant herbs but what they were I could not discern. I tossed the bag back to Zeke. He stuffed it into the front pocket of his trousers.
“Are we purposing the idea that Brooks Price is in the business of taking children then selling them into slavery?” I asked. The accusation was a large one. Incredibly large since the 13th Amendment had just passed into law less than two years ago.
“I don`t know.” Zeke growled then exhaled in an effort to calm his heated blood. “It warrants checking out. Why they would take a white child? It seems reckless. Indian? Yes. One less redskin to have to deal with would be considered a blessing. But a white child would be reported to the law. The government would search for a missing white boy.”
“Not if the people who took him thought that the boy’s kin were dead,” I said. My words hung in the stuffy air like a vile cloud. “They took Boyden after they thought they had killed me. Then – then they made sure they killed his mother. I bet he would bring a fine fat purse.” I snarled, my lips rolling back in a feral, hateful expression.
“We ride for Galveston?” Zeke asked in the face of my rage. I saw the same drive and longing for blood glittering in his Stygian eyes.
“We ride for Galveston.”
Copyright 2013 ©by V.L. Locey
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See you next week with more from the old West!