Harold Lamm Patterson squinted through the rain-blurred windshield. Checking for traffic, he pulled his rattletrap International Scout through the gate of the Rocking P Ranch and onto the highway. Pouring rain made it hard to see. Part of the problem was his eyes. Ivy, his daughter, was constantly nagging him about that, and she was probably right. Thank God his ears still worked all right.
At eighty-four, even with his new, thick trifocals, the old peepers weren't nearly as good as they used to be. But Harold figured the real problem was the damn wiper blades. The rubber was old, cracked, and frayed. The blades squawked across the windshield, barely making contact and leaving trails of muddy water on the dusty, bugsplattered glass.
In southern Arizona, it seemed like you never noticed that the wipers weren't working until you needed them, and when you noticed, you were too busy driving blind to remember. The next time he went into A & A Auto Parts to drink coffee and shoot the breeze with the counterman, Gene Radovich, Harold still wouldn't remember, not if it wasn't raining at the time. it reminded him of the words in that old-tune song "Manana." No need to fix a leaky roof on such a sunny day? Same difference.
But that particular day-an unseasonably cold early-November morning-it was raining like bell. A pelting winter storm had rolled into the Sonoran Desert from the Pacific, filling the normally dry creek beds and swathing the Mule Mountains in a dank gray blanket that was almost as chill as the pall around Harold Patterson's stubborn old heart.
His daughter's personal-injury trial was due to start inCochise County Superior Court first thing tomorrow morning -- Wednesday at nine o'clock. Unless he could figure out a way to stop it. Unless he could somehow bluff Holly into agreeing to talk to him. Unless he could work a deal and canvince her to call it off.
He had tried to talk to her about it several times since she arrived in town. That ploy hadn't worked. That darmn hotshot lawyer of hers had insisted that until Harold came to see her with his hat in his hand-to say nothing of a settlementit was a straight-out no go. His own daughter refused to see him, wouldn't even tell him where she was staying.
His own daughter. Just thinking about it caused Harold's gnarled, arthritic hands -- hands that had wrung the necks of countless Sunday-dinner chickens -- to tighten into a similar death grip on the smooth surface of the worn steering wheel. Harold thought about Holly and her damn lawsuit the whole time he guided the wheezing yellow Scout over the rain-swept pavement of Highway 80, up the mountain pass locals called the Divide and then down the winding trail of Tombstone Canyon into Old Bisbee.
Holly had been a Fourth of July baby. He had wanted to call her Linda -- Indy for short in honor of Independence Day, but Emily wouldn't hear of it. She insisted that if she had daughters, they would be named after their grandmother's favorite Christmas carol, "The Holly and the Ivy," regardless of whether or not they arrived any time near December 25. And Holly it was. Would she have been less prickly, Harold sometimes wondered, had she been given a different name?
Holly Patterson had entered the world sandwiched neatly between Bisbee's traditional Independence Day Coaster Races and the annual Fourth of July parade down Tombstone Canyon. She was born in the Old Copper Queen Hospitalthe brick one up in Old Bisbee, not the new apricot-colored one down in Warren. It had been a hot, miserable morning. On that pre-air-conditioning summer day, the nurses had left the deliveryroom windows wide open in hopes of capturing some faint hint of breeze. Emily had screamed her fool head off. For several hours running. To a poor, anxious, prospective father waiting outside, that's how it had seemed.
Harold remembered the whole morning as vividly as if it were yesterday. Left to his own devices in the waiting room, he had been propelled out of the hospital by his wife's agonized cries. But with the windows open, there was no escape from Emily's frantic shrieks. No one else in the downtown area-onlookers watching the races or waiting for the parade-could escape them, either. The relentless screams echoed off nearby hillsides and reverberated up and down the canyons. People lined up on the sidewalks kept asking each other what in the world were they doing to that poor woman, killing her or what?
Pacing up and down in the small patch of grassy park between the hospital and the building that housed the Phelps Dodge General Office, Harold had wondered the same thing himself. What were they doing to her? And when old Doc Winters finally slipped Emily the spinal that shut her up, Harold had despaired completely. As soon as she grew quiet, he was convinced it was over, that his wife was dead.
Of course, that wasn't the case at all. Emily was fine, and so was the baby. Men don't forget that kind of agony. Women do. Had it been up to him, one child was all they would have had. Ever.
Afterward, holding the beautiful baby in her arms, nursing her, Emily had smiled at him and told him Holly was worth it. Harold wasn't so sure. Not then, not ten years later when Ivy was born, and certainly not now.
Things change. The delivery room where both Holly and Ivy had been born now housed a Sunday-school classroom for the Presbyterian church across the street. A law firm-the biggest one in town-now occupied the lower floor space where the old dispensary and pharmacy had been located. In fact, Burton... Tombstone Courage
. Copyright © by J. Jance. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.