by DiVoran Lites
Wham, bang, crash! Ellie awoke with a start. Someone was making a ruckus in the house. She slid out of bed, dressed, and stepped carefully down the stairs avoiding the creaky boards discovered from morning trysts with Aldon. From the kitchen, she heard a rough, country voice.” Git the booze if you know what’s good for you.”
“Si, si, but should we not hide from the clan? They followed us from town and will soon arrive.” It was Enrico’s voice. She heard the basement door open and the sound of feet pounding down the stairs.
Ellie knew she must get Aldon. She opened the front door and slipped out into the misty night. Before she could reach the barn, she heard another commotion and ran behind the chicken coop to hide. A soft, no escaped her lips when she peeked out and saw men covered in white-sheets with peaked masks over their faces getting out of a motor car. They lit large torches, which flared in the darkness as if they were the fires of hades. She knew they couldn’t see her from where they were so she ran toward the barn and climbed up the ladder to the loft.
“Aldon!” she hissed standing over his cot. “Wake up!”
“Ellie,” he said as if he were dreaming. He turned on his side facing her and pulled her into the cot beside him. He put his arms around her and snuggled back into sleep.
“Aldon, get up. We’ve got visitors,” Ellie pushed against his chest and he abruptly let go of her. She fell onto the floor and lay there a moment getting her breath back. When she got up, she pulled on his arm. “Come on, there’s something happening out there. We’ve got to go check on it.”
He sprang up causing her to fall again. It was all beginning to seem like a movie horse opera.
“Get that shotgun over there,” he said. As she handed him the weapon that leaned into the corner, he grabbed two shotgun shells from a drawer in the desk and loaded both barrels.
“Stay here,” he said.
“Wait, let me tell you.” She tried for a deep breath but felt so rushed she couldn’t quite manage it. “Enrico’s in the basement going after some liquor. Two more men are waiting for him in the kitchen. I think they’re drunk. The KKK just arrived – four of them in an open flivver. They’re in the barnyard, wearing robes and hoods, and they have lit torches. We’ll have to be careful they don’t burn down the house.”
“Okay, you’ve done a good job, now you stay right here where you’ll be safe and let me handle it.”
“I’m going,” she said. “Just tell me what to do.”
“We don’t have time to argue about it.” He said descending the ladder.
“I’ll show myself and divert their attention and you can get a drop on them.” She scrambled after him, brushed past, and ran out the door before he could forbid it. She screamed to get the marauders’ attention, and they turned and stared.
“Get her,” one of them yelled.
“Put those torches in the air and hold them high. Okay, now, know this. I’m going to shoot the first man that moves.” Aldon stepped out of the shadows pointing the gun. “Ellie come over here by me.”
“It’s a mite late to go visiting, isn’t it?” Aldon said. “Keep your hands in the air and go stand over there in front of the corral.”
“We hear you’re harboring some folk that don’t belong here.” One of the men said.
“Where did you hear that?” Aldon walked toward the men, whose robes crawled with ominous shadows in the light of their torches.
“From that there Eyetalian you got hanging around here. We don’t cotton to any kind of people ‘cept pure white Americans.” The man with the big belly spoke.
“Who are you after?” asked Aldon.
“For now we want that colored woman. Her husband was a murderer. What better reason could we have for taking her away?” Another man spoke.
“Oh, you mean our friend Kate? Why don’t you just head on back down to where you came from and leave us alone. You don’t have any business here.” Aldon cradled the gun under his arm.
“You see, you don’t understand. We are here to protect you and your family from foreigners and strangers coming in and taking over.” A third man spoke.
“How do you know who’s American and who isn’t?” Aldon motioned for one of the men to raise hands that had been slowly descending.
“First off, they got to be white.” The clansman’s hands rose again.
“Not just them, but their folks too.” They seemed to talk in turn, one and then the other. “They got to have American names, American ways, fight for the country.”
“Did you fight for the country?” Aldon asked while Ellie gave a sigh of impatience.
“We’re all respectable businessmen and upstanding citizens, somebody had to stay here and run the country. Our Grand Dragon is the preacher of the biggest church in Artesia. He is a real American. We got half the politicians in Denver on our side. We’re doing what any red-blooded Americans ought to be doing.”
“We hear you’ve got a half-breed kid here, too,” said a different voice. “We could take her off your hands.”
Everybody jumped when the screen door banged shut and Kate came striding out in a long robe with the biggest broom Ellie had ever seen in her hands. She took a swing at the man closest to her and he went down. She went after a second, and he ran, tripping over his sheet.
“Get out of here and leave us alone.” She turned on the third one who stared at her dumbfounded. She hit the fourth man with the broom. In three seconds the automobile was loaded and had put-putted away. Instead of watching it go, Kate looked around for someone else to hit and headed for Aldon, not quite recognizing him in the dark. He took the broom.
“Whoa there, it’s me. You’ve taken care of them. You can relax now.”
Once Enrico and his two cohorts saw that the KKK had moved on, they came skulking out the back door. One of the men was tall and skinny. The other was broad and hairy. By now, Signor Solano had also descended from his aerie.
“What are these men doing here?” Signor Solano asked moving close to Enrico.
“Allow me to introduce my friends,” said Enrico bowing to the company in a drunken move to take control of the situation.
“What are they doing here?” Signor Solano asked again while supporting his grandson against his own increasing strength.
“I know them,” said Aldon. “They’re squatters.”