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Pearl River JunctionThe Sons of Daniel Shaye
By Robert Randisi
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2006 Robert Randisi
All right reserved.
Thomas Shaye looked up at the sound of younger brother James's voice. Both young men were barechested and sweaty, as they were working in the midday Wyoming heat, sinking fence posts. Two gun belts hung from the most recently erected post and Thomas walked over to be near his as the rider drew closer.
"Can you see who it is?" he asked James.
"No, but I know it ain't Pa."
Dan Shaye had ridden into town to purchase more supplies for the work that needed to be done around their ranch, which they had only recently purchased. And he'd taken the buckboard, so there'd be no reason for him to be riding toward them at this time of the day. It'd be several more hours before their father returned from the town of Winchester.
James turned in time to see Thomas toss him his gun belt. He caught it at the last moment, but instead of strapping it on he simply slung it over one shoulder.
Thomas started to strap his onto his hips, but then stopped when he recognized the rider.
"Ain't that Rafe Coleman?"
"I think you're right."
Instead of strapping the gun on, Thomas simply folded the gun belt and held it in his left hand. Thereseemed less of a chance of needing it now that they'd identified the rider, but it would still be easy for him to draw it if the need arose.
"Afternoon, Rafe," Thomas said as the rider reached them.
Rafe Coleman was about Thomas's age, mid-twenties, and ran errands around Winchester. The man reined in his horse, but remained mounted.
"You know my brother James?"
"Yessir," Rafe said. "Howdy."
"What brings you out here, Rafe?"
"Got a letter for your pa."
"Pa's in town," James said.
"Truly?" Rafe asked, frowning. "Geez, I guess I coulda saved myself a ride out here, huh?"
"You didn't see him there?" Thomas asked.
"No, sir," Rafe said. He removed his hat and wiped his brow on his sleeve. "If'n I had I wouldn'ta rode out here."
"Guess not," James said.
"Sure woulda saved me some time, though," Rafe complained. "Damn." With that he turned his horse and rode on.
Thomas regarded the small envelope for a moment. The handwriting was small and cramped, somehow feminine. The return address said Pearl River Junction, Texas, but there was no name. Thomas knew that Pearl River Junction was a town not far from Epitaph, where their mother had been killed while their pa, Dan Shaye, had been the law. He'd deputized his three sons and they'd tracked down the killers. They also lost their brother Matthew, killed by the same man.
Thomas shoved the letter into his shirt pocket, removed his gun belt, and hung it back on the post.
"Well, what is it?" James asked.
"Like Rafe said, just a letter for Pa."
"Ain't you gonna read it?"
"It's for Pa."
"I ain't openin' Pa's mail, James," Thomas said. "Now come on, let's get these posts in. We're both gonna catch hell if we don't finish today."
"What's the good of fencin' in land when we got no livestock?" James groused.
"The livestock will come later," Thomas said. "You know Pa's got plans."
"We ain't farmers, Thomas."
"No, we're ranchers."
"We ain't ranchers neither," James said, "We're lawmen."
"We were lawmen," Thomas said. "That's in the past."
"Thomas," James said, grabbing his brother's arms, "just 'cause Pa don't want to be a lawman anymore don't mean we can't."
"James -- "
"No, listen," James said. "We could find a town that would hire us: you as sheriff and me as a deputy."
"First of all, you don't get hired as sheriff, you get elected."
"And second, we ain't got the experience -- or the years."
"You're old enough to be a marshal," James said. "I can be your deputy."
"James -- "
"Why do we have to quit just because Pa wants to?"
"We don't," Thomas said. "We can go our separate ways and do what we want. Pa said so."
"Then let's do it."
"Separate ways, James," Thomas said. "If you want to go and be somebody's deputy, go ahead."
"And what are you gonna do?"
"Stay right here."
"For how long?"
"Until I decide what I want to do with my life," Thomas said, "or, little brother, at least until these fence posts are put it. Now can we get this done?"
In the town of Winchester Dan Shaye was waiting in the general store for his order to be filled. While he waited he went over to look at the new shirts. When he'd gotten dressed that morning, he'd realized that his shirt had no holes on the left side, where he used to pin his badge. There was a time, years ago, when his wife Mary had been doing the laundry and had pointed out how all his shirts had these pin holes in them.
"Why don't you just slide the pin through the same hole every time you put on your badge?" she'd demanded.
"Why don't you make every apple pie you make taste the same?" he'd countered.
"My pies do taste the same, Daniel Shaye," she'd responded. "They're delicious every time. You say so yourself."
She'd defeated him with words as she usually did. He touched the new shirts, felt the smoothness of the cotton. He didn't really need any new shirts, but most of the ones he had at home still had the pin holes in them from his badge. If he was going to leave the law behind forever, maybe he should get rid of those shirts and buy some of these new ones.
"Wanna add some shirts to your order, Mr. Shaye?" the clerk asked from behind him.
Shaye stared at the new shirts for a few moments more, then removed his hand and turned to face the man.
"No," he said, "I don't think so. I guess I can still get some wear out of the shirts I've got."
Excerpted from Pearl River Junction by Robert Randisi Copyright © 2006 by Robert Randisi. Excerpted by permission.
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