by DiVoran Lites
Chapter Fifty Four
“Where’s Enrico,” asked Molly as Aldon entered the kitchen? “He’s been going to the saloon every night and missing supper. Sure’n a growing boy needs to eat.”
Aldon began to think about Enrico’s whereabouts and how he might be connected with the kidnapping of Ellie and Lia. If he’d been going to the saloon, then he’d been talking. If the squatter brothers also went to the saloon, then all Enrico had to do was tell them when round-up was scheduled and the boys could make their plans to rustle cattle. He could also have given them ideas of where to look for the women. Enrico probably didn’t know anything about the rustling attempt, nor the kidnapping, but Aldon didn’t think he’d be too worried about either one. Aldon could only see one solution. The sooner Enrico left the ranch, the better off everyone would be. The kindly Mr. Solano would be sad, but Aldon thought it might be better even for him. He seemed to have lately gained a new vitality and love of life. It looked as if he would fully recover, after all. Surely no one wanted him set back in his healing by discovering his grandson’s betrayals.
“I’m going to check on the kid.” Aldon excused himself and climbed the stairs. There, Lastus lay spread-eagled and sound asleep with his wrist cuffed to the iron bedstead. He might have a chance at a decent existence if he could get away from his brother and mother for a while. Maybe the law would go send him somewhere and give him a real job. No use to send him to prison where he could learn how to be a real criminal. All he needed was the Lord and a bit of education and he could probably become a productive member of the community. Maybe he’d talk it over with Ellie. Aldon lay down on the floor next to the bed and went to sleep for what seemed like minutes, but the next thing he knew, the rooster crowed.
Ellie was flipping pancakes when he took Lastus downstairs. “I figured you’d want an early start.” Ellie sounded subdued. “Would I be in the way if I rode along? I’ve got a hankering to get out of here for a while.”
“A hankering? You’re talking like a Westerner.” His eyes filled with the sight of her golden hair and peachy skin.
“Yes, I think of myself as a Westerner. I’ve enjoyed my time here.” Her eyes filled with tears, but she turned her back and brushed them away. Aldon saw that Lastus was watching Ellie closely. He had probably never seen anything like her. The lad kept his mouth shut, though, which was the first smart thing Aldon had seen him do yet.
“Do you still plan to leave here?” He asked Ellie, pushing down the dart of fear that lodged in his throat.
“Granddad wants to move on to California.” She turned toward him as she spoke. “It’s warmer there for Grandmother’s arthritis and you know how he has always talked about going west.” She set the stack of pancakes on the table.
Aldon said. “My brother tells me California can be cold and damp.” He didn’t know why he was arguing with her. She’d made her mind up as far as he could see. It just made him feel so sad to think of her leaving.
“How did your prisoner do during the night?” She changed the subject, a clever ploy to avoid another argument. Aldon played along by motioning toward Lastus. “He’s okay.”
When Aldon put Lastus in the backseat of the old flivver he handcuffed him to the steel post that supported the roof. Over the summer the road had developed so many potholes that everything rattled as they motored along. Ellie looked back then mimed to Aldon that the boy slept.
The minute the car stopped in front of the sheriff’s office, Ellie jumped out, but then she stood waiting for him to unlock Lastus’s cuff. Sudden chaos broke out as the young man bolted away from Aldon and around the automobile to grab Ellie. Rage washed over Aldon like a forest fire, but he gritted his teeth and held his ground knowing the big child could snap her neck in a second.
“Throw that there sidearm in the motor car,” Lastus demanded. Aldon obeyed.