*skids to a halt and plonks down breathless at computer* “So little to do, so much time… strike that, reverse it.”
I’m really looking forward to April. Maybe by then I’ll have time to actually breathe when I’m not being sidelined with health stuff. o_o
“Well, if they got this part worked out [asked Bella], why not add some kind of clockwork loading mechanism?”
[Marty replied,] “Blessed if I know. Maybe it wouldn’t fit in the tree; maybe they figured more moving parts meant more that could go wrong. Or maybe this was the only way the gunfighters would go for it.”
“Perhaps this fellow will be able to tell us,” said Mr. Meusebach, coming onto the porch just then with Mike. The two of them were half-carrying the man Mike had shot [in the shoulder], who had regained consciousness and was swearing his head off. Ashley stood in the doorway and growled threateningly.
Mike grabbed one of the porch chairs, shoved the prisoner into it, and cuffed him lightly on the ear. “Don’t talk like that in front of a lady.”
The prisoner looked at Bella and sneered. “That ain’t no lady, that’s a—”
Mike backhanded him hard enough to draw blood.
Bella found herself drawing up to her full height. “If you get blood on my porch, Captain….”
Mike shot her an amused glance. “Understood, ma’am.”
Marty coughed, apparently to keep from laughing. Then he turned his head toward Ashley. “That’s enough, girl.”
Ashley sat down in the doorway and stopped growling audibly, but her ruff was still raised and her ears back.
“Who sent you out here?” Mike demanded of the prisoner.
The prisoner snorted. “I ain’t talkin’ to no—”
Ashley cut him off with a flurry of furious barks until Marty called her down again. Then Mr. Meusebach stepped around in front of the prisoner, and as Mike stepped aside to give him room, Bella was astonished at the change that came over their dear friend and neighbor. Gone was the affable gentleman farmer; in his place stood the nobleman who’d so impressed the Comanches that they’d nicknamed him after a god.
“Let me make one thing perfectly clear,” said Baron von Meusebach in a steady, dangerous voice. “You have three choices. You will talk to us; you will talk to the sheriff; or you will talk to the State Police.”
For the first time, the prisoner looked slightly nervous. “I don’t gotta talk to nobody. I got rights.”
“Oh, yes, you have rights. But we have evidence—enough evidence that the sheriff will most assuredly charge you with attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder. I would think that you are wanted for other crimes, also, perhaps even actual murder.”
The prisoner looked more nervous.
Mr. Meusebach raised an eyebrow. “Ach, so, you are a murderer, and you know that you will hang for that. There is, however, the possibility….” He paused—deliberately, Bella suspected.
And the prisoner took the bait. “Of what? P-possibility of what?”
“Well, I cannot speak for Gov. Davis, but there may be a chance of clemency if you will tell us all you know.”
The prisoner started shaking, though Bella wasn’t sure if it was from fear or blood loss. “Don’t I get a lawyer or nothin’?”
Mr. Meusebach shrugged. “It may take several days, perhaps even weeks, for one to be found who is willing to travel this far from Austin.”
“Weeks?! But I ain’t got—” The prisoner caught himself.
“You don’t have weeks,” Mike rumbled. “Because your gang expects to finish off Mrs. Hancock and Mr. Donovan in a matter of days, and if they come back from Lost Creek to find you’ve been captured before you could kill us….”
The prisoner was definitely afraid now. “You don’t know nothin’.”
Or do they? Stay tuned….