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Authors: Bobbie O'Keefe

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BOOK: Family Skeletons
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“And what lies are you talking about?” she prompted.

“You damn well know that, too. You told the sheriff
they was takin’ pot shots at you on your beach.”

“Listen carefully, Mr. Bowers. A bullet grazed my
head when I was on the beach. I reported that to the sheriff. I don’t know who
fired the bullet, and I told him so. I’ve never met your boys, nor have I heard
their names before. Is there anything else, or are you ready to go now?”

“You Cordays think you’re tough shit, just ’cause
you got money and a big name and a big house. It ain’t enough that your daddy
got to steal their mama away from my boys, but now you want to go and blacken
their names. And I’m not gonna let you get away with it.”

“Excuse me, Mr. Bowers. I didn’t understand that
part about their mama. Will you run that by me one more time?”

Though he made no menacing move, it occurred to her
that she was trading words with an angry drunk who was quite a bit bigger than
she was. She backed up another step, putting herself out of his immediate
reach, but no more. A show of alarm from her would make him braver. She wished
the empty cola can was a full one. If he tried anything, she planned to smash
his nose in with it.

“You heard me awright. Your daddy coulda had any
woman he wanted, and he wanted a lot of ’em, but he made a mistake when he went
after my Louise. She told me the truth, after I beat it outta her. Then she up
and left me. It was his doin’. Franklin Corday. That was one sorry man with an
unhealthy appetite for what didn’t belong to him.”

“Well, I’m sorry to hear that. But I’m not
responsible for my father and his lack of character or his sins. I didn’t even
know about this particular one. And I don’t hold your boys responsible for
anything. I don’t even know them. Any problems you’ve got, you need to take to
the sheriff. He’ll listen to you.”

But he won’t listen to your beer
talking.

Surprisingly she found herself feeling sorry for the
man, and her voice softened. “Really, Mr. Bowers, it’s okay. Go home and...rest
up. Talk to the sheriff tomorrow. If your boys didn’t do anything, then they’re
not in trouble.”

He seemed thrown by the change in her manner. He
looked like he wanted to bluster some more, but had run out of reasons.

“Goodbye, Mr. Bowers. Take it easy on your way
home.” Leaving him standing there, she went inside, and then watched the
unstable man from the parlor’s window. After about thirty seconds of looking
stupefied, head turning in different directions as if he was trying to figure
out where he was, he finally got into his car. He reversed it over a geranium
bush, turned the vehicle around, and drove away.

 

Chapter Seven

Sunny was headed for the shed in the backyard in
search of a ladder to climb into the attic with when she heard Jonathan’s truck
returning. But instead of driving around to the back as he usually did, he
parked in front and sounded the horn. When she walked around, she spied him
standing at the rear of the SUV with its door down. His arms were wrapped
around something big, and he was looking up at the porch.

“Oh, there you are,” he said, jerking his head her
way. “Can you open the front door?”

As she got closer, she realized the object he
embraced was a portable TV.

“Sure.” She took the three stairs in two steps and
held the door open. When he backed up, the TV’s cord dropped to drag along the
dirt. “Hold it,” she warned. She jumped to the ground, stooped to pick up the
cord and tucked it between his elbow and the television. “Let me guess. Monday
night football.”

He grinned and mounted the stairs, his head craning
around the set so he could see each step. “I got a good deal. It was a
discontinued floor model.”

“We’re not going to be here very long,” she said
doubtfully. “I’m not complaining—I like the idea of a TV to pass the
evenings—but how much use are you going to get out of it?”

“I want another one at home. I hadn’t gotten around
to shopping for it yet, and this seemed like a good time.”

She followed him into the house and pulled the
screen closed. “Do you room with someone, too?”

“No. I’ve got my own place.”

He carried the set into the parlor while she thought
that over. “One person needs two TVs?”

The faded and scarred end table that belonged next
to the overstuffed chair was now against the wall just inside the parlor door,
and that’s where Jonathan put the TV. The lamp and phone that used to be on the
end table had found new homes on the coffee table in front of the sofa. She’d
passed by the room several times today but hadn’t noticed the new furniture
rearrangement.

Gee, Sunny, I’d never noticed how
observant you are.

“I’ve got one of those wide screens in the living
room,” he explained. He stepped back, surveyed the set, then moved back and
adjusted its position. “And I want a smaller set for the bedroom.”

If you had company in bed, you wouldn’t
need a TV
.

“We don’t have cable,” she reminded him.

“An antenna is still on the roof, and the wire’s
over there in the corner.” He nodded his head toward it. “So a television was
in here at one time. I also bought a digital converter box. I should be able to
work it out.”

“Yeah, there was a TV in here.” With the help of a
dolly she’d gotten it outside to the dumpster, but she hadn’t been able to
heave it up and get it inside. The driver of the truck that picked up the
dumpster was nice enough to take it anyway. “It was the first thing I tossed.
Completely dead.”

But she hadn’t been careful disconnecting it, she
remembered, and she hoped now that she hadn’t killed the antenna wire. She
decided not to mention that possibility.

He glanced at her. “How long before dinner?”

“How long do you want?”

“Couple of hours?”

“Okay. Need any help?”

“No, thanks.” His eyes were studying the wall behind
the set, the floor between it and the corner, then he frowned up at the
ceiling.

Cars, football, and TV hookups. Doesn’t
take too much to keep a man happy.

Jonathan was good at estimating the time it would
take to complete a task; evidently he’d had some practice at this kind of
thing. He had five minutes left when he called her, and familiar music sounded
at the same moment she heard her name. Evidently Sunny hadn’t killed the
antenna wire. She found him in the middle of the room, gaze on the set and
remote in his hand. She went to stand next to him.

Yep, he’d caught an
I Love Lucy
episode.
Together they watched Lucy as she sampled an energizing vegetable brew that
carried an alcoholic content. From the look of him, Jonathan was also enjoying
Lucy’s wide-open eyes, slurred speech and limp elbow on the counter as the brew
took over. This segment was filmed before either of them had been born, yet it
was more entertaining than much of the new fare presented each fall. The
episode was interrupted for a run of commercials.

“Your time’s up,” Sunny told him. “If you don’t want
dried meat and overdone veggies, we need to eat now.”

With the remote he switched the power off. “When you
use this, make sure you return it to the top of the set so we can always find
it.”

She nodded dutifully. “Yes, Jonathan.”

“And you can no longer operate the lamp with the
wall switch. You’ll have to turn it on manually.”

“Okay.” She didn’t ask why. Ryan loved long,
technical explanations that drove her to distraction. All she needed to know
was how to turn something on and off, and the remote was right there on top of
the TV.

“And—”

“Jonathan, there’s nothing worse than well done
London broil. Get a move on.”

Carrots and scalloped potatoes accompanied the slab
of meat. She usually added thinly sliced onion to the potatoes, but tonight
they were plain. She’d added nothing to anything and was determined to eat everything
exactly the way it was.

He cut a bite of meat and looked thoughtful as he
chewed. He speared a few carrot slices and sampled them. He ate a forkful of
potato, then put his fork down and stared at her. She ate quietly, aware of his
gaze but not looking up.

“Have you made your point, Sunny? Are you going to
be back to normal by tomorrow?”

She tried to put innocence in the look she gave him.
“What’s normal?”

After a long stare that she refused to return, he
got up to get salt and pepper then liberally sprinkled each over the food on
his plate. “I wish to hell I knew,” he said under his breath.

You’re a bad influence on him, Sunny.
You’ve taught him how to swear.

After dinner he again gave her a wide berth, though
he only went upstairs this time, not all the way to Castleton. She was rinsing
the broiler pan when he turned the bathtub faucet on. Not getting even half
enough water to rinse the sudsy pan, she made a face and turned the spigot off.
He couldn’t have waited another thirty seconds?

She dried the dishes in the drainer, cleaned the
table and stove, even wiped off the handle of the refrigerator. Finally the
bathtub was full enough to suit him and he turned the faucet off.

“Thanks,” she muttered, finished the pan and put it
away, and headed down the hall to sample the new TV. She punched the set on
with the remote and checked the newspaper listings while waiting for it to warm
up. Cat purred around her ankles, probably waiting for her mistress to sit down
so she could jump into her lap. The kitten had enjoyed the London broil, cut up
into tiny pieces, even without seasoning.

Sunny looked curiously at the TV. It wasn’t doing
anything. She retrieved the remote, lined it up exactly with the set, punched
it off and then on again and still got nothing. Well, it was an ancient antenna
up there. The breeze may have moved it just enough it’d lost the signal.

She flicked the wall switch to turn on the lamp so
she could read, but that didn’t work either, and she swore under her breath.
He’d only spent two hours in here today and now nothing worked. Maybe he was
one of those fiddlers who didn’t know how to fiddle.

Impatiently she again picked up the remote. While
she waited for the TV technician to get through with his bath and undo whatever
he’d done to the lamp, she could at least get a head start on troubleshooting.
Try to get reception on other channels, check the audio, play with controls. She
punched up the volume, and then sheepishly remembered him telling her that the
lamp had to be turned on manually. That problem would only be a problem if she
had to admit to him that she’d forgotten something so simple. Nope, it wasn’t
necessary to advertise that momentary lapse. She turned to reach for the lamp’s
switch and the sudden blast of sound behind her jolted conscious thought right
out of her.

With a loud yelp she jumped and came down hard on
Cat’s tail. The animal screeched then lit out for the hall by way of the coffee
table and knocked the lamp over. It clattered to the floor, made a couple
rattling spins before it shattered, and the crescendo behind her continued. She
whirled toward the TV. Color, action, sound. Lots of sound.

Feet thundered down the stairs. Jonathan grabbed the
newel post and swiveled around, on full alert and gaze flitting everywhere. He
skidded to a stop in the parlor doorway, stared at her, and she stared back.
Soapy water drained down a muscular chest and hairy legs. Bare chest...bare
legs...bare everything.

“Are you okay?” His gaze again shot to the closed
front door, down the hall, back to her. “What made you scream? What happened?”

She said nothing. He stepped into the room and
reached toward the TV, probably for the remote that wasn’t there. It wasn’t on
the coffee table where she’d put it, either. Then he found it in the wreckage
of the lamp, picked it up and turned off the blaring television.

“You don’t have to tell me,” he said, returning the
remote to where it belonged. The all-knowing male shook his head at the
shortcomings of the unknowing female. “I know exactly what you did. If you’d
listened when I tried to explain, you would’ve understood that the wall switch
now operates the TV, not the lamp.” He added something that sounded like, “Save
me from,” but that was all she caught.

He looked at her and she looked at him, but she
wasn’t looking at his eyes.

It was his turn to jump.

“I—oh, I—hey—uh...” He looked madly around as if for
a foxhole to dive into. She handed him the newspaper. He covered himself with
it, circled around her and backed out of the room. He ascended the stairs with all
the dignity a naked man in his position could muster. Three steps from the top,
he must’ve realized that since he was walking away from her it was his backside
he should be shielding with the newspaper.

The bathroom door closed.

Sunny realized she was standing in the puddle he’d
left on the hall’s hardwood floor, yet she couldn’t exactly recall leaving the
parlor to track his exit. She should mop up the water before it spread to the
parlor rug. She also needed to clean up the broken lamp pieces and apologize to
Cat. But she remained still, gaze glued to the closed bathroom door.

Is that what hung like a horse means?

BOOK: Family Skeletons
7.26Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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