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 'Hug’. In this excerpt Clayton and Zeke meet Mr. Brooks Price.
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!
“I`m looking for Mister Brooks Price,” I told the office workers. Above us on the second floor, a man emerged from an office paned with glass. He was a well-dressed man, tall as I was, with a neatly trimmed blond mustache that curled on the ends. Perhaps he was close to fifty. His hair was slicked down flat to each side of his head, the hair dressing making the golden hair on his head appear a shade or two darker than his handlebar mustache. The part showed his scalp to be quite white. His suit was made of wool, clearly custom tailored as it fit him perfectly. He sported a fine long coat and elaborate cravat. His boots shone like a newly minted coin.
“I do hope I have not done anything unlawful, Sheriff." Mister Price smiled as he motioned us up the stairs then led us into his office. It was a well-appointed suite with a mahogany desk, four windows, and several chairs. There was a round table with dainty chairs hugging the corner. “My darling sister stops in for tea daily when she is in town,” he explained as I stared at the dainty cups and saucers already in place. The door closed behind my deputy. I looked from the frail table and delicate seats to our host.
“Thank you for allowing us to come in,” I said. Mister Price smiled at us. He seemed to smile a great deal. Most folks when confronted by two lawmen that smelled as rank as we would be less than friendly.
“It would be rude to not accommodate the law from my illustrious home county!” he chuckled as he settled into a huge chair behind his massive desk. Zeke and I stood before him but several feet back. We did not dare put our boots onto the finely made oval rug that covered most of the office floor. “Can I interest you in some bourbon? Or a cigar?”
Zeke threw me a suspicious sideways glance. I shook my head at the generous offer.
“We thank you for your hospitality, but we cannot accept. What we would like is just a moment of your time so that we can discuss a rather distressing situation that we have come across in the course of our duties.”
Mister Price leaned back in his leather upholstered seat, his fingers steepled under his rather long nose. His blond eyebrows knitted over his eyes.
“That sounds quite serious,” he said behind his fingers.
“Indeed it is. Are you the sole owner of the Price Cargo & Shipping Company?” I asked. Price`s gaze was heavy. I did not allow myself to shuffle or look away. He tapped his lips with his fingers.
“I am not,” he replied, lowering his hands from his lips. They came to rest on his desk. “That is a partnership with the city of Galveston. The Price name was graciously allotted the business as it is a well recognized and respected name. Why do you ask, Sheriff?”
“What exactly is it that you ship, Mister Price?”
He paused in his extraction of a fat cigar from a wooden box upon his desk.
“What tribe are you from, boy?” he asked out of the blue. Zeke`s fingers tightened on the band of his scruffy hat. The beads and feathers tinkled as he pawed the brim.
“I`m no boy,” my deputy replied, his voice deeply grating.
“Let me explain something to the both of you,” Mister Price said. He then made us wait until the end of his cigar was snipped off. He held out a lighter to Zeke. “Why don`t you come over here and light this for me, Deputy?”
“My deputy is not here to serve in the form of domestic help for you, Mister Price.” My tone was cold. My hackles were more than ruffled, they were raised. The man behind the desk smiled around the cigar held in his teeth. He struck the lighter then puffed loudly. I glanced at Zeke. He was holding onto his temper by the thinnest of tethers. I shook my head infinitesimally at him. His eyes darted to the painting of the Price ranch back in Laco that hung behind a cloud of cigar smoke. It did not waver until we turned to leave a moment later.
“That is where you are wrong, Sheriff Moore. You and your deputy both are here to serve me in whatever avenue I so see fit. Do you have any idea who it is that pays the stipend the sheriff of Laco draws?”
“No, Sir, I do not,” I said but I knew. As soon as he asked, I knew.
“Well, Son, you`re a smart Louisiana boy, I thought you`d be able to put two and two together faster than your red-skinned partner here.” Price waved his stubby cigar at Zeke. “I pay the law in Laco. I pay the mayor, the city council, the cattlemen, and the whores. Well, I only pay the whores when they`re done being on their knees, but the point is that Laco, its surrounding lands, and the rails that are quickly approaching all belong to me or soon will. Now, let me ask you once again, and I would like you to think about your reply before you make it. Why are you asking about my business ventures, Sheriff?”
“No reason, Mister Price. I believe I may have been mistaken. Thank you for your time.” I placed my dusty Stetson on my head, spun on my worn boot heel, and left Brooks Price smirking at my retreating backside. Ezekiel practically oozed confusion. Neither of us spoke until we were riding slowly down one of a hundred busy side streets.
“What the fuck are you doing?” Zeke asked as we ambled past the impressive storefront for the Price Cargo & Shipping Company.
“I`m stepping off the man`s toes. Tell me; are you any good at entering an establishment after business hours?”
“I`m no thief if that`s what you`re asking,” Zeke snapped with mild umbrage. Hessie and Storm plodded along, my mare trying to nip passersby’s that got too close.
“That is not what I was asking at all,” I replied as I looked over at him. His thick black eyebrows were wound around each other. I chuckled lightly at his bewilderment.
“Weren`t you thinking of breaking into Price Cargo & Shipping?” my deputy asked as his horse sidestepped a wagon filled with barrels fresh from the harbor.
“I was not,” I said, turning the corner then stopping so that we could drink in the sight of the Galveston seaport. White gulls swooped downward while screaming loudly. Sails snapped in the wind. Tall ships and short ships jockeyed for available piers. Steamships lumbered to and fro in the choppy water of the Galveston Bay. The smell of fish, guts, sailors, and sea was overpowering. “I was thinking of breaking into the harbormaster`s office. Breaking into Price Cargo & Shipping after our little meeting with the owner would be more than foolish.”
“Breaking into the harbormaster`s office is smart?”
I tapped my temple.
“I will never understand the white man.”
Copyright 2013 ©by V.L. Locey
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