Tales to Tease the Senses

Tales to Tease the Senses

by Pat Booth-Lynch

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781465329196
Publisher: Xlibris Corporation
Publication date: 12/18/2001
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
File size: 259 KB

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A Cry for Justice

Tears glistened in Martha's eyes, and she lowered her head. "If this keeps up, he's going to kill Amy. I just know it."

Her alarming words rattled around in Clyde's mind like coins in a dryer, loud and unnerving. He wiped his nose on his shirtsleeve and sniffed in an unexpected outbreak of feelings, then pushed his wife's wheelchair into the kitchen and sat down beside her.

Clyde's rough fingers grazed his shaggy beard, and he shook his head from side to side. "No way we can interfere with the two of `em," he said. "Tried that. `Member when I called the sheriff? He about laughed at me. Said he can't do nothin' if she won't complain."

A sigh escaped his lips, and he pressed his hand over hers. With a gentle touch he brushed aside a few strands of silver hair that dipped low on his wife's forehead and raised her chin. He saw the pain in her face, saw her chest rising and falling as anxiety ate away at her body already ravaged by arthritis. The sight of his loving wife in agony tore at his gut like a raven after raw meat. He knew their daughter's live-in boyfriend was a tyrant. The scum, who called himself Foley, had moved into town and taken over Amy's life, had left their only child bruised and battered. But what could a father do?

Clyde frowned as he scraped the hard surface of a callus on his thumb. "She ain't never gonna leave him."

"I know," Martha said, taking in a ragged breath of air. "But that's only `cause she's scared. If we hadn't bumped into her in town, we'd never've known about her broken arm and that black eye." She pulled a tissue from the pocket of her faded cotton dress and blotted her tear-stained cheeks. Wadding the dampened sheet into a ball, she pulled at it until it crumbled into pieces.

"Amy won't call us for help, neither," Martha said. "Got grandpa's stubborn pride in her, deep as the old well out back. Won't admit she screwed up." Martha's gaze fastened on the cracked linoleum at her feet. When she finally looked up, Clyde noticed a sudden brightness in her eyes as if they had been ignited by a flame.

"We've got to take care of her. Just like we always done," Martha said, her voice now as firm as a defense lawyer arguing a case. "We ain't gonna get no justice less we do it ourselves."

"Whatcha talkin' about?"

"You gotta get him out of her life."

Clyde's voice faltered. "But how?"

"With grandpa's gun. You've gotta shoot him. Maybe at the tavern where he hangs out."

"You don't mean that."

Martha's eyes narrowed, her jaw tightened, and she cocked her head to one side. "You bet I do."

<<...>> Her response sent chills through Clyde. He had never seen his wife in such a state, like one akin to a cornered bull.

"I'd do it myself," Martha went on, "but for this wretched curse of mine." She pounded her withered hands on the chair arms. The effort brought quick tears to her eyes.

"You know I'd do anything for you and Amy, but..." His words died away as did the conversation. Silence settled in. Clyde pinched the bridge of his nose, then stared at the chipped paint on the wall above the stove, his thoughts a mix of fear and hate. It wasn't as if he didn't know how to handle a gun. He had done a lot of hunting on the farm when grandpa was alive, but still. Can I take a life?

Martha's medicine eased her into a deep sleep that night. Clyde wasn't as lucky. He couldn't keep his eyes closed. Every creak in the old farmhouse jolted his nerves. Even the tick, tick, tick of the clock sounded like a series of explosions. At sunrise, before the two managed to get out of bed, Martha asked him again to help their daughter. "Can you do it for me and Amy?" she pleaded.

Clyde offered a hesitant, "I'll try."

That evening he loaded grandpa's hunting rifle while Martha looked on. "Now you stay out of sight," she said. "Don't you go gettin' caught. Far as anybody knows you was takin' care of me, you hear?"

At bedtime, Clyde placed the rifle in the truck and drove to the tavern, being careful to take the back road that skirted the orange groves. Parking a good distance from the front entrance, under a row of low-hanging live oaks, he slumped down in the seat and waited.

A little after eleven, he spotted Foley stagger out the door. Clyde's right eye twitched. He brushed a sweaty forearm across his brow.

With a mind full of doubt he leaned forward, raised the rifle, sighted down the barrel, and fired. The recoil jarred Clyde's shoulder with such force he barely heard the cracking sound of the bullet leaving the chamber. His breathing quickened. His heart raced. He watched Foley stumble, then pitch head first down the porch steps. Fear gripped him, for in the shadows he saw someone rush forward and bend down over the lifeless form. He dropped the rifle into his lap and pressed his hands to his head to try and stop the raucous vibrations he felt in his ears, sounds of a heartbeat out of control.

Clyde was a coiled spring as he eased the truck down a side street and sped home.

When he opened the kitchen door, he spotted his wife staring at him, wide-eyed, expressionless, like a granite statue. "It's done," he said in near panic. After giving Martha's cold hands a squeeze, he took a gulp of whiskey from the bottle and fell into a chair.

Neither of them slept that night. Clyde paced the kitchen floor, jumping at the slightest sound, gagging on the stale smell of his own sweat. Martha sat in her wheelchair with a blank stare on her face.

Have I gotten away with it?

Sometime after one, the phone's grating ring broke the stillness. Clyde knew it was over. Whoever it was with Foley had seen him. He was sure of it.

Martha's hands flew to her mouth at the same time her husband reached for the wall phone. Clyde let out a full breath when he heard the words, "Sheriff Hanes here."

He pressed the receiver tight against his ear to ward off a fit of palsy. It seemed as if the air had been siphoned from the room, for when Clyde tried to inhale, it was like breathing through rain-soaked wool. All he could manage was a quick gasp.

"I'm here at the hospital with your daughter, Clyde. Now don't you go gettin' excited," Hanes said. "She's okay, though Foley's not. Seems he fell down the steps at the tavern and cracked his skull on the concrete walk. Damn fall killed him. From what I hear some guy saw the whole thing. He said Foley musta lost his balance when a car backfired out on the main road. Probably scared him." The sheriff's gravelly voice rose an octave. "Anyhow, Amy's asking for you. Want to pick her up?"

A whoosh of air escaped Clyde's lungs, and his shoulders sagged. "Be right there," he said, turning toward his wife. After hanging up the phone, he stretched out his trembling hands and grabbed the back of a chair to steady himself. For a few seconds he couldn't speak, couldn't get the words to come out. Still rattled, he heaved another sigh. "Relax Martha," he said with an anemic smile. "Wait till you hear this. And you said there ain't no justice."

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