Sean Donovan (The Californians, Book 3) (5 page)

BOOK: Sean Donovan (The Californians, Book 3)
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Sean was in a tower rage as he packed his saddlebags
and gear. He hoped to never see Hartley again, because
if he did, he was going to strangle him. The woman at
the house watched in surprise as he took supplies from
the kitchen, leaving disaster in his wake. She then watched
from the front door as he rode away from the cabin without
a word. Had Sean cared to put his emotions aside, he'd
have noticed her calm, and understood that Hartley hadn't
left for good, and was, in fact, planning to return as soon as
possible.

As it was, Sean returned also. Try as he might, he could
not find his way out of the hills. It seemed that each trail he
found became impassable within several miles of the
cabin. Angry and frustrated, he returned late at night,
now wishing Hartley was on hand so he could choke the
life out of the man. He dropped on his bed, fully clothed
and asking himself how he'd come to be in this place. At
last he fell into a restless sleep.

In the morning Sean's mood had not improved. Anita
had put some breakfast on the table, but was nowhere to be
found. This was fine with Sean, who sat down and ate like
he'd not had a meal in weeks, still asking himself why he'd
let himself be suckered in by Hartley.

Having lost his razor, he hadn't shaved since they'd left
Tulare, but that didn't stop him from wanting to be clean.
"I can hardly stand myself," he grumbled as he stripped to
the waist after his meal and scrubbed up at the basin that
stood next to the cabin's only door.

He was just finishing his wash, changing into the last of
his clean clothes, when two riders came into the yard,
Hartley and another man. Sean was out the door and
reaching for Hartley before he could dismount. He yanked
the smaller man from the saddle and held him in the air by
the front of his vest.

"I will not be toyed with," his voice sent a chill down
Hartley's spine, and he actually smelled fear, thinking
Sean was about to kill him. "I am not your slave. Now you
can get back in that saddle and lead me out of these hills, or
I'm going to put a bullet through you."

Sean dropped a gasping Hartley in a heap at his feet and
strode back into the house to collect his gear. Hartley
followed, and for the first time Sean saw him lose his
perfect composure.

"I'm sorry, Sean. Listen to me," the older man begged.
"I never dreamed you wouldn't know I was coming back. I
left Anita. Didn't she tell you we needed another man? I
didn't think you'd want to come. Honestly, Sean, I was just
thinking of you. You're my partner, Sean-I wouldn't do
anything to hurt you."

This last sentence was the only one to arrest Sean's
attention. Hartley had never called him a partner before,
and for some reason the word had a calming effect on him.
Hartley, smooth as a snake-oil salesman, saw that he'd
penetrated Sean's anger. In the blink of an eye he had
everyone gathered around the table, talking to them and
including them in his plans as though they'd been friends
for years.

It took Sean the better part of the next 15 minutes to fully
understand that Hartley was planning something bigger
this time. The man who had come with him, Rico by
name, was a bit dim, but seemed all for the plan.

"You're going to rob a bank." Anita too, had been slow
on the uptake, and Hartley patted her cheek when she
understood.

"I thought we were going to break into someone's
house," Rico admitted, sounding just a bit unsure.

"How about you, Sean, did you understand?"

"Only just. Have you done this before-robbed a bank?

"Never in Visalia, but elsewhere." Hartley spoke with
casual ease. "There's nothing to it, Sean; you'll see. And if
there is some danger, we're talking about thousands of
dollars here-well worth the risk."

"Who gets the money?" Anita wanted to know, catching Hartley's excitement.

"We all do," Hartley told her with a smile.

Sean knew that this was a now-or-never point in his life.
His father's face suddenly sprang into his head, and Sean
wondered where he was. It doesn't matter, he thought after
just a moment. He doesn't want to see me anyway.

In an effort to hide the pain Sean bent low over the bank
plan now laid out on the table. "Count me in" was all he
said before everyone fell quiet and allowed Hartley to
explain.

 

Santa Rosa, California

Rigg was exhausted, but sleep would not come. He
was sure this stemmed from the fact that his wife was not
in bed with him. He rolled onto his side to better see the
woman who sat in the rocking chair, her silhouette illuminated by the moonlight flooding through the window.

Katie had been sitting motionless for more than an
hour. She knew she would never be able to get out of bed
in the morning if she didn't lie down and get some rest
soon, but her heart was so heavy with thoughts of her
brother, Sean, that sleep seemed hours away.

How long had it been since they had seen him? Nearly
two years-Molly had been an infant. Nearly two years
since Aunt Maureen had written, beside herself that he
had gone off on his own. They had been forced to accept
Sean's decision, but there had been times when it had
been close to torture to sit and wonder where he might
be.

So why, tonight of all nights, was he so heavy on her
heart? Every day she thought of him, and prayed that
God would guide his path and someday bring him home, but tonight was different; tonight there was an
urgency in her thoughts. Something was happening this
night, and Kaitlin knew she had to pray.

She also knew that if Sean had been in the room, she
would have held onto him with all her strength to keep
him from ... to keep him from what, she was not sure.
But somehow Kate was certain that Sean needed protection of some type at that very moment. Not that he
would have welcomed her interference in his life. He
had wanted as little to do with her at 16 and 17 as any
teen could. He hadn't wanted advice or even affection,
from her or anyone else.

Nineteen and a half now, Kate thought to herself. Surely
he would feel some different.

Rigg stirred in the bed when someone knocked on the
bedroom door. Kate, not wanting him to be disturbed,
started to rise, but Rigg was already to the door. He
opened it and found Marcail, now 14, waiting outside in
her gown and robe. Rigg, not understanding why Kate
was awake, also wondered at the fact Marcail wasn't
sound asleep.

Rigg stepped back and allowed her to see Kate at the
window. She moved forward and stopped beside the
rocking chair, letting Kate see her face in the moonlight.

"I can't sleep."

"No," Kaitlin spoke softly, "I can't either. Are you
worried about Sean?"

Marcail nodded, misery written all over her young
face. "Where is he, Katie?"

"I wish I knew."

"I can't get him out of my mind."

"I can't either."

"Do you think he's in trouble?"

This time it was Katie's turn to nod. "We've got to
pray, Marc. God knows all about this, and we're going to
give it to Him right now."

Both girls bowed their heads. As sisters, each in her
own way, they petitioned God on behalf of their brother.

Marcail, really still just a girl, asked God to keep Sean
safe, and to bring him back to Santa Rosa right away so
they would know he was all right.

Kaitlin, a mother, prayed differently. She prayed that
Sean would make wise choices and seek God's will above
his own. She also prayed that God would be glorified in
Sean's life, even if it meant her beloved brother would
have to know a season of pain.

 
seven

Visalia, California

We all experience seasons, Sean. They're not the predictable
seasons, such as winter and summer, but the unpredictable
seasons that come into our lives. I'm talking about times of
loneliness or grief, or seasons of joy and peacefulness. But no
matter what the weather in our hearts, Sean, we've got to keep
our eyes on God.

Why Katie's words of long ago would come to Sean so
strongly at that instant was beyond him. He felt another
trickle of sweat run from his temple down into his beard,
but still he didn't move. How he had gotten himself into
such a mess, he couldn't for the moment remember. But
then he heard the low whistle-the signal-and there
was no more time for thought.

As Sean rushed through the rear doorway of the bank,
he nearly stumbled over a body. Stopping dead in his
tracks, he felt a sudden jolt as Rico, the man behind, ran
into him.

"What are you doing?" Rico sounded as breathless as
Sean felt, and Sean turned to find his features in the
darkness.

"Nobody said anything about killing."

"He's not dead you idiot, now get over here with those
sacks!"

These words were ground out by Hartley from his
place by the safe, and the two young bank robbers rushed
forward to comply. Sean had never heard Hartley sound
so tense. Suddenly the enormity of what they were about
to do froze Sean in his tracks.

"Get behind something, it's almost ready to blow."

These words were enough to propel Sean into action.
He dove for cover just as the entire world seemed to
explode. The next minutes were a blur to Sean as he
choked on the smoke and tried to be in all six of the
places he was being commanded.

He froze again when he heard shots outside, and felt
completely rattled as a vision of being shot raced through
his mind. Still stunned, he watched in fascination as his
companions ran out the back, their arms full of sacks
hastily stuffed with United States currency.

"Donovan!"

Not even the furious shouting of his name could compel his feet forward; by the time Sean reacted, it was too
late. He spun around as men with guns came pouring in
the front door. He turned and moved after Hartley and
Rico, but he hadn't gone two steps when another man
came through the back door with a gun. Sean listened in
stunned disbelief as the men yelled that Sean's partners
had escaped.

Sean felt numb. He was barely aware of the man who
laid hands on him until he gave a cruel yank to Sean's
arms. Now painfully alert as his hands were being
cuffed behind his back, Sean started as a face suddenly
pressed close to his own and snarled in a voice full of
hate, "If he's dead, you'll hang."

"He'll hang either way if I have anything to say about
it."

Sean's confused mind barely registered this last comment as he was escorted to the door. He was surprised at
the number of people on the streets, but then remembered the deafening sound of the explosion and wondered how in the world they had believed they could get
away with such a robbery.

The back wall of the jail cell was the only obstacle that
kept Sean from hitting the floor as he was pushed violently past the bars. The clanging of the door was like the
sound of a death knell in his ears.

Squinting through the gloom of the small cell, Sean
saw a cot. He sat down with his hands still tied and
leaned slowly back against the wall. If they left his hands
tied until morning he was certain to be disgraced as the
need to relieve himself was pressing in stronger with
every passing moment. That, along with the receding
fear, caused Sean's anger to return. He was working
himself into a fine rage, telling himself he was going to
kill Hartley as soon as he was released, when he heard
voices in the outer room.

BOOK: Sean Donovan (The Californians, Book 3)
13.96Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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