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 'Mother’. In this excerpt Clayton and Zeke grow even closer.
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. This excerpt also contains some graphic and violent scenes.
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!
By dusk I was as contrary as a cougar with a thorn in its paw. The herd was milling around a windmill watering system. We had found refuge behind a tree line. I had to assume the tree line was a property boundary. Zeke and I sat our horses, peering at a most peculiar sight. Two large tents were set up near the large in-ground tank. Boys of various ages were seen milling about. None were past the age of fourteen I would hazard. Some seemed as young as say eight. I counted no more than ten young ones. The eldest wore side-arms. That told us that they were in charge of the encampment. That also told us we could not simply ride in unannounced. Young men with guns were foolish to the extreme.
Dog was lying on the edge of the herd, his head on his front paws, his ears twitching. I was at wits end when a hue and cry went up in the camp. Zeke and I slid out of our saddles. We led the horses behind the trees as a rattling chuck wagon rolled into sight from the east. The boys came running. The wagon pulled in between the two large tents. The children stood straight as new boards, their hands at their sides, their heads downcast. Zeke cleared his throat. I handed him my canteen without looking at him. He drank.I watched in some sort of sickly horror as one lad was chosen from among the others by the man who must be the cook. He spoke to the young man, took his arm, and led him from the line. The other boys did not move as their counterpart was dragged into tent. The flap was thrown closed. The hungry shepherds stood at attention.
“This is not going to continue,” I said looking over to see if my deputy would argue discretion. He handed me back my canteen, his lips moist and full.
“You take the adult. I`ll try to subdue the children without scaring them further.”
I dearly wanted to say how much I loved him. I did not though. I think he knew. We left the horses tied to the trees. Dog raised his head when we approached on hand and knee. His tail whipped the stubble that was once grass. I motioned to Zeke that I planned to sneak into the tent from the rear. He nodded then spoke to Dog in a gruff whisper. The dog rose up, stretched, and then bounded into the herd. Sheep scattered to the four winds, eyes round with terror. Zeke and I made our moves. I rushed to the back of the tent, my Henry loaded. The shouts and pandemonium created by a dog among the sheep covered much. It muted my entrance. It also drowned the whimpers of a child about to be sorely abused by an adult.
The cook, he was a thin man, long-nosed with sparse hair. His balding pate was damp with sweat. His pants were around his ankles. The boy was splayed over a table, his trousers loose but not down. I did not ask any questions. I shot point blank. The cook lost the top of his head. The lad began to scream. He made no move to hike up his trousers, nor run, or even fall to the ground in relief or shame. He just lay over the scarred table screaming. I gathered the boy up. He did not fight. Outside I went, my repeating rifle aimed at the ground. The sheep had broken into small groups. The boys were one large knot. Zeke stood in front of them, one hand on each of his revolvers, his stance showing he would brook no sudden movement. The two teenagers, they stood bravely in front of the younger boys, but in their eyes you could see the terror.
“You have no cause to fear us,” I said, a traumatized young man riding on my hip. “We`re lawmen,” I said then glanced down at the silver star above my heart. “This man is my deputy.” All eyes roamed to Zeke. He tapped his bronze star. Some of the anxiety blew away on the warm evening breeze. “I am in search of a young boy, four years old. Sandy hair like mine who goes by the name Boyden.”
A young Indian boy stepped out from among the crowd. I looked them all over slowly. It seemed to be a diverse group of slaves. Some Indian, some Mexican, four Negro, and a few white like the twins we had met earlier. A motley group of castoff street rats that would not be missed. Or so the ringleaders had thought. The boy marched up to Zeke. They fell into a stilted conversation in a choppy tongue. The boy on my hip still cried, but the wailing had lessened. I tried to set him to his feet but he would have nothing of it.
“He asks that if they tell us where the Boyden boy is will we take them with us. He misses his mother."
“I will most assuredly take them with us.” Zeke inclined his head then relayed my response. The older boys, they seemed the most reluctant to trust us. I did not blame them. Adults had mistreated them badly. Why should they place trust in two men who they did not know? “If they get into the wagon, they may eat while we ride to free the others.”
The group looked at each other. Zeke translated for the native boys. The twins eyed us warily then one hungry young man broke from the pack. Another then another climbed into the large covered wagon. I handed the clingy lad on my hip to one of the teen boys. He took care not to touch me. Soon the night was filled with the sound of feasting: metal spoons hitting bowls, slurping, belching, and whispering among themselves. Zeke had brought the horses as the boys ate. We waited by the windmill. Zeke smoked. I counted each squeak of the windmill as it slowly blew in circles. It took all the patience I possessed to not stroll over and demand directions from the boys.
Slowly one of the eldest walked over to us. He was lanky, lean, haunted.
“We drive the wagon. We`ll go to the house first, you come in the back through the kitchen. The others will be in the lesson room in the basement this late at night. We`ll wait by the barn. If you hurt anyone besides Emerson or his men, I will shoot you in the fucking face, lawman or not.”
“Fair enough,” I said. The young man turned on his heel, gathered up one of the smaller boys who had curiously followed him over, and then disappeared into the chuck wagon. Zeke and I exchanged a look then saddled up.
Copyright 2013 ©by V.L. Locey
Click on the link below to return to the Tuesday Tales main blog for more great reads from the talented authors of Tuesday Tales.
See you next week with more from the old West!