The Big Gundown

The Big Gundown by Bill Brooks Read Free Book Online

Book: The Big Gundown by Bill Brooks Read Free Book Online
Authors: Bill Brooks
to go along, Jake,” and placed a gloved hand over his holding the reins. It was a gesture that endeared him to her. It did not escape him that the feeling he had toward them all was one of family . To a stranger they would simply seem like a man and his wife and children traveling the road from one place to another. He liked the idea.
    Â 
    Toussaint came to the door and motioned them all inside. Little Stephen’s eyes brightened at the sight of the girls and Clara and Karen kissed cheeks, then everyone removed their coats, Toussaint taking them to the mud room to hang them on brass hooks. The place smelled of warm food and a fire crackled in the fireplace.
    The children went off to Stephen’s room and Clara pitched in to give Karen a hand with the meal. Jake motioned Toussaint to step out onto the porch and they did without bothering to put on their coats.
    â€œYou say anything to Karen about what we found?”
    â€œNo, not yet I didn’t. Figured this wasn’t the day for it. When I came back for the wagon, I just told her it was something you needed me to help you with. You say anything to Clara?”
    â€œNo, and I don’t want to either.”
    â€œThey don’t need to know such things,” Toussaintsaid. “Troubling things like that. You find out anything out to Bob’s?”
    â€œNothing much, last name is about all. Pickett,” Jake said. “That was his name, Nat Pickett.”
    It began to snow.
    â€œPickett, huh.”
    â€œYeah.”
    Jake saw Toussaint looking off toward the lone gravestone where his son lay buried. The Negro boy would have been about the same age , Jake reasoned. Maybe a little older, but close enough to dredge up memories.
    â€œBob say anything, about what sort of person he was, that colored boy?”
    â€œSaid he was a good hand.”
    â€œNothing bad about him, that he was the sort to get into trouble, maybe did something to bring on a fight and that’s why they killed him like they did?”
    â€œNo, he didn’t say anything along those lines.”
    Toussaint nodded, still looking at the gravestone.
    â€œYou know of any sort of trouble a man could get himself into to have someone beat him like that and do him the way they did?” Jake said.
    â€œNo.”
    â€œMe either.”
    Karen came to the door and said, “Supper’s on.”
    â€œWe’ll be in in a second,” Toussaint said.
    She looked at him for a long moment, then closed the door.
    Stems of grass rushed along before the stiff wind, mixed with the snow, and oddly enough there was a split in the clouds way out to the west and a shaft of golden light sliced down through and touched the ground and it seemed to Jake a man could go and stand in that light and be somehow blessed and free of anything bad happeningto him. But just as quick the clouds drew closed again, cutting off the light and the whole sky became dreary once more, except for the soft swirling flakes of snow.
    â€œYou think you can find them who did it?” Toussaint asked, turning his gaze away from the headstone to meet Jake’s.
    â€œI don’t know if I can, but I’m sure as hell going to try.”
    â€œI was just wondering if somewhere right now that boy’s people are sitting down to a table full of hot food, feeling happy and content they have each other to sit down with, and wondering, maybe, ‘Where is he and what’s he doing?’ You think that’s possible?”
    â€œSure, more than possible.”
    â€œBetter then they don’t know. At least not today.”
    Jake clapped Toussaint on the shoulder and said, “Let’s go eat and try not to think anymore about it for now.”
    But all through that meal, the happy talk and the laughter, the stories Karen told on Toussaint, and the giggles of the children, the sweet way Clara smiled at him, Jake could not completely forget about Nat Pickett.
    And snow, small and

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