“I didn’t say that!” Jarrod, stood in the small living room which was just large enough to hold a couch, a couple of chairs and a piano, though there was enough space for a person to walk around without a problem. “All I said was we didn’t need to drag the children to this Borden home as well. In spite of the fact that Mr. Stevenson said ‘just up the road’, it’s an additional twenty miles!” Jarrod, who had been looking out the window, turned around and faced Brydie. He wasn’t yelling, only he was speaking a bit louder than normal. “I just don’t want you traveling to this Borden place by yourself, and we don’t need to drag the children along with us. They,” he sighed as he remembered how devastated Charity and Thomas had been when the family had set a headstone next to his father’s in honor of Heath. “The children don’t need their hopes raised right now. We can catch a stagecoach to *Brimsville after I talk to Jenny and Mother about watching the children.”
Brydie didn’t like the idea of traveling back to Stockton, only to turn around and head back in the direction they’d just been in. Still, she could understand where her brother-in-law was coming from. The children were too young to have to deal with adult sized situations. But, she couldn’t leave them alone either. That being the case, she knew of only one way to handle the situation...since going back to Stockton wasn't an option in her book. “Mrs. Stevenson has her hands full here. She said she’ll be needin’ help now and then; wished she could look for extra help but can’t afford too. If you’ll be promisin’ me within an inch of your life that you’ll be hightailin’ it back here if you should be findin anythin’, I will talk ta her. I can be her extra help, and the wee ones won’t be dragged all over the place.”
Jarrod liked that idea a whole letter better and, smiling wide, nodded his head. “I promise.” He then headed for the front door and walked out onto the porch, watching his children and the Stevenson’s children again playing in the yard. His mind wondered back to the last time he saw Heath; it was the morning before the earthquake.
Heath was standing next to the work bench in the barn when Jarrod walked in the door. The blonde-haired cowboy looked up from the horseshoe was he working on, a lop sided grin appeared on his face when he saw Jarrod’s shirt was wet. He might have wondered what had happened, only earlier a pair of six-year-olds had burst into the barn and scampered up the ladder that led up to the loft, never even bothering to notice their uncle was only a few feet away. “What happened?” He asked, fighting to keep any laughter from escaping his lips.
Jarrod, who knew full well his children were hiding in the barn, threw Heath a playful glare and looked around. “I was looking for a pair of wayward children. Don’t suppose you care to confide where they went?”
“Well,” Heath drawled as he started hitting the horseshoe with his sledgehammer once more. “There’s quite a few places a body could hide.” Even as he said the words he was glancing towards the loft. “But, do me a favour.”
“What’s that?” Jarrod asked as he headed towards the ladder.
“Deal with them inside the house; I have to get this done. You know I am supposed to leave soon.”
Jarrod sighed. ‘I am supposed to leave soon’… what ominous words they seemed like now. Then, thinking about the Borden family and the trip he would be making for Brydie’s and Nick’s sake, he found a hope growing inside of him…a hope that, by some miracle, Heath would be among the people the Borden’s had helped.
“I want, Mama!” Three year-old Johnathon-or John as the family called him-started to walk towards his father who was sitting in his new wheelchair near the living room window. However, the young child soon found his grandmother’s firm, but gentle, hand clasped on his arm. After the discovery that Barrett had made, Victoria knew Jenny needed to talk some sense into Nick, who-in spite of his condition-was threatening to do a few things. “Come with me and your sister. It’s time for your nightly bath anyway.” No one was surprised when the young child let out a ‘harumph’ and then did as he was told.
The moment Victoria and the children were out of earshot, Jenny turned to her husband and waited for him to speak. As she waited she could still feel the shock of McColl’s words as he stood on top of the hill telling the Barkleys just what Barrett had discovered.
“Those smaller rocks, the ones on the other side of the huge boulders,” McColl’s eyes were full of disbelief, “that is, some of them have been moved. We…we saw dry blood on the ground and…” he paused again before continuing. “It appears as if someone was dragging themselves towards the river.”
After he’d heard those words, Nick had demanded that the men find a way to move the other boulders…if for no other reason than to make sure no one else had been in the area. They had ended up using a single stick of dynamite…it gave off just enough force to blast the larger boulders into smaller pieces. Afterwards, they had found absolutely nothing underneath.
“I told you he was alive!” Nick, who was looking out the window and was sick at the thought of a badly injured Heath dragging himself along on the ground with no one to help him, kept his face forward and snarled.
Jenny, who was just as sick as Nick, walked over to the wheelchair, knelt down and laid her hand on her husband’s arm. She understood how upset he was, only there was no way she’d give her support to what her husband said he wanted to do. She wasn’t surprised when she saw a mixture of anger, frustration and flat out desperation in his eyes. “I know you did. Only please, get this idea of getting one of the hired hands to drive you around in a wagon looking for him out of your head! Jarrod and Brydie are already doing that, and I need you here!” She did too. After all they’d been through, would go through in the future, she needed Nick on the ranch for a while. Besides, if he and any ranch hand should run into trouble who would help him? People could say she was being over-protective; and, maybe she was. She didn’t care though. She was only telling him the truth.
Nick was startled by the stress he saw in his wife’s eyes, though he didn’t know why. Heaven knew she’d been through enough standing by him as it was. “You’re right.” He said after a few moments of tense silence. “I need to stay.” Nick let out a deep breath and added, “I just hate feeling useless.” He doubled his fist, raised it slightly and brought it down upon the arm of the wheelchair.
Jenny sighed and she slid her hand, which had been resting on his arm, down to his hand and clasped it in hers; his reaction did not surprise her in the least. She felt badly for him and wished she could change things. “You’re not useless." She spoke quietly and with compassion. "Mother had McColl ride into Stockton and send a wire to Jarrod. Barrett and some of the other men are scouring the ranch and outlining areas. You just have to wait here with the rest of us when it comes to this matter,” She moved her head forward and kissed him. Naturally, Nick did not fight her on that one.
“Now,” she said as she pulled back and stood up, taking a hold of his wheelchair as she did so. “Let’s go sit outside on the porch for a while.”
Nick simply nodded as she began pushing his chair towards he door. The two of them often sat on the porch in the evening to do just that, relax that is. He just hoped he would be able to…for both their sakes.
A/N * Brimsville is, as far as I know, a made up town.