Chase stopped in the parking lot of the Crete clinic. Before the car engine died, tall, lanky Red Ellis approached the station wagon, his long legs carrying him directly up to Chases’s side of the car.
Rain noted old Red wore his usual beat-up black cowboy hat and he hadn’t shaved in days for salt and pepper grizzle covered his nar-row face. He was dressed in his faded jean jacket and his equally faded Levi jeans, and looked every bit the rancher that he was.
Red leaned on the driver’s door and gruffly growled, “That bastard Baxster is actually doing his job for once! Maybe on account of your boy, he’ll drop these goddamned charges against Ben!”
Chase didn’t quite understand what Red was saying. “My boy?” he asked. “The Sheriff ain’t getting no report from Rain here.”
“Your other boy,” Red said. “Baxster’s in there grilling him–”
“Hell!” snapped Chase, nearly throwing Red off his feet as he swung his door open and sprang out of the car.
Rain sat there watching his dad angrily taking long strides toward the clinic.
“What the hell’s his problem?” Red asked, glancing at Rain as he opened his own door and climbed out of the station wagon.
Not particularly liking the cantankerous old rancher, Rain simply shrugged. “Have to ask him,” he muttered.
Red fell in beside him as he made his way toward the clinic doors. “This is damned serious!” snapped Red. “That ass-hole of a sheriff has Ben brought up on some serious charges–”
“That’s bullshit!” Rain said as the two of them reached the doors.
“Damn right it is!” Red said. “You and I both know that Long Soldier doesn’t even drink!”
Reaching for the door, Rain stopped. He turned his head slightly, saying, “You . . . and . . . I?”
An old rage came boiling to the surface. Especially since Red Ellis tried to make it sound as if he and Rain were friends, when they were anything but that. Not since the incident that took place on the Ellis ranch last summer. An incident that left Rain and Chris despising the cold-hearted son of a bitch named Red Ellis. After that day, it would be a cold day in hell before Rain ever considered himself friends with the old coot.
The you and I that Red spouted struck a nerve in Rain, and he took issue with the fact that Red made it sound as if they were on the same sides. Even if they were both wanting to clear Ben Long Soldier of any wrong doing in regards to the bus wreck.
Rain and Chris had stood mute as Red Ellis shot and killed the one and only horse out of the three-hundred others who stubbornly defied every attempt Ben made to tame him. Although Ben never gave up on any horse brought before him, after three weeks of trying over and over to convince the wild stallion he was only looking out for its best interest, Red made the call to put the horse down. He claimed the three weeks were a waste of Ben’s time. Time that could have been spent taming other unruly horses.
After the shooting, Ben had cremated the unfortunate horse and while the boys looked on, he had scattered its ashes to the four winds in a most solemn ceremony that left the two boys openly weeping for the slaughtered horse.
For such cruelty on Red’s part, Rain would never forgive the man.
The old rancher swung the door open, ushering Rain inside the clinic. “Ben don’t deserve to be falsely accused,” Red said, “of any-thing let alone drunk driving and motor vehicle homicide!”
Rain fell speechless for long moments as he and Red moved down the hallway toward the ER. “Homicide?” he managed to ask. “What do you mean?”
Red removed his dusty black cowboy hat. He ran slender fingers through the long strands of hair that at one time had been red, but now looked like sun-baked straw, with gray dominating the gold in his ragged curls. “The Morris boy?” he said. “Bobby? The one who broke his leg? He had a punctured artery. The snapped bone in his leg pierced it and he bled to death before they got him here.”
Rain felt dizzy. The same sick feeling that overcame him back on the bus when he’d seen Chris’s bone sticking out of his arm stole up over him. He reeled to one side of the hallway.
Red caught him before he could fall. “Whoa, son!” the old rancher said, gripping him with strong fingers. He carefully guided Rain over to a chair in the ER waiting area. “Sit yourself down there, boy.”
“Little Bobby Morris?” Rain asked, his vision blurring for several seconds. He sucked in a gulp of air. “Bled to death? He’s dead?”
“Yep,” Red said, seating himself in the chair next to Rain. “Here, take a couple of deep breaths. Maybe even put your head between your legs to steady yourself some.”
Rain shrugged Red’s gnarly hand off of the back of his neck. “No,” he said, weakly. “I’ll be okay now, just shocked me with that news. Can’t hardly believe Bobby is dead.”
Red sat there, holding his hat. “Doctor said he shouldn’t have been moved,” he said. “Says on account of him being jostled around like he was, the bleeding became more severe. Guess, Ben is taking the blame for that, as well–”
“No,” Rain whispered, finding it too hard to speak properly in his condition. “Wasn’t Ben who moved him. It was Baxster. Ben even told him to leave him alone until the ambulance could get there.”
This news seemed to annoy Red. He settled his hat back on his head and offered Rain a piercing stare with his light blue eyes. “If in that is true,” he said, “then this whole thing appears to be a snow job to set the blame on Ben. God damn! That pisses me off! You and I both know Long Soldier is a good man!”
Rain leaned back against the soft cushion of the chair. “There you go,” he muttered, softly, “with the you and I again.”
A few minutes later, Chris walked out of the ER, being careful not bump his cast against the double doors as they swung open.
Rain felt relief wash over him that his little brother seemed to be okay. There he stood almost a carbon copy of himself, small, slender, long unruly hair, only Rain’s was raven black and hung just past his shoulders, while Chris’s white-blond hair hung to his collar.
Must be on pain-killers, Rain thought as Chris walked up to him, grinning. “Want to be the first to sign my cast, Rain?” he asked.
“Sure,” Rain said, pulling himself to his feet and looking directly into Chris’s glazed yes. Yep! he thought. Someone has him all doped up! He’s feeling no pain!
Red offered Chris his seat. “Here you go, son,” the old rancher said. But Chris, much like Rain, did not care for the man on account of him killing that horse last summer.
“No, thanks, Red,” Chris said, not in total disrespect because that just wasn’t in the kid’s nature. “We’ll be leaving soon as Dad sets Sheriff Baxster straight.”
Red peered coldly at the ER doors now standing closed before them. “What did the Sheriff want with you, son?” he asked.
It wasn’t Chris who answered him, however, as Chase and Baxster came bursting out through the swinging ER doors. “All I needed was information from the kid, Chase!” growled Baxster. “So far, I’ve got Long Soldier being responsible for the crash due to his intoxication. Then there’s that Morris kid, dead because of rapid blood loss! If your boy might add something more to what happened out there, perhaps Judge Saunders won’t throw the book at the Indian come Monday morning in court!”
Chase wheeled around to face the big, brawny Sheriff, and Baxster took a step back in sudden alarm. For a moment, Rain thought his dad was going to perform an ass-whooping on the overweight Baxster. He could clearly see that Baxster thought so, too, as his hand dropped to the butt of the pistol holstered at his ample waist.
Chase glanced down at the meaty hand of Baxster as he fumbled with the strap holding his pistol in place. “Oh, knock this shit off, Clyde,” the ex-president of the Outlaws said. “I’m not a threat to you, but I can see, though, I made my point. My boys are not answering anymore of your questions.”
It was Red who caused both big men to turn the tension down a notch as he said, “Let your boys tell this redneck sum bitch what they know of this so-called accident, Chase. Any thing they can do to clear Long Soldier of wrong doing is a win in our favor.”
The lanky old cowboy gestured at Rain, saying, “Seems there’s some discrepancy over who moved the Morris kid and got his leg to bleed so badly. Maybe if this idiot of a Sheriff heard the whole story from Rain’s point of view, he might have a different take on things. Maybe even clear Long Soldier of these ridiculous charges.”
Red glanced over one bony shoulder at Rain. “Go on, tell your Dad what you told me just now, son.”
Rain opened his mouth to speak, but Chase snapped, “Not a word, Rain! Not one damned word, got it?”
“But, Dad,” Rain said, “this whole thing about Ben drinking is a lie. Ben doesn’t drink, ever. He’s been sober for ten years.”
Chase narrowed his eyes. “Rain?” he sternly said. “You and Chris get yourselves out to the car!”
He snapped his fingers and lifted one thick arm to point toward the clinic’s doors. Chris immediately walked toward the doors, but Rain stood his ground for one long minute, holding a stare down with Chase. The large ex-biker president offered his son a fiery glare, and Rain turned and followed his little brother.
As he approached Chris standing there holding one of the doors open for him, he heard Red snap, “What the hell’s your problem, Chase? Who put a bur under your saddle? Last summer you were all for my Indian working with your boys, and now look at you, refusing to help clear him of any wrong doing? Why?”
And as the doors swung closed behind them, Chris and Rain heard their dad mutter, “I’ve got my reasons, Red. Reasons that don’t concern you and your Indian.”