It hadn’t escaped my notice that the Harvester Brand was spreading fast around the city. It was a swift spread that had happened over such a short space of time. While Julia Harvester hosted both Beckingridge and Owen proposals for investment she, essentially, was the only thing keeping the duelling titans at bay, the only thing keeping Buddy Owen on a low profile and the only thing keeping the city holding a tentative breath.
“You got to watch her, man,” David Finn, the artist, told me. “You never know what she’s going to do next.”
David would know. After he fell in love with her as his muse, he had become so engrossed by her that he failed to see two of his closest friends lose their child. The beautiful art work he produced with her image only brought him to Harbour House.
Regardless of the warnings, I wondered if Julia knew anything about Sarah or Tawny. Perhaps she had heard her guest on the farm brag about the shooting as his brothers had. The very least I could do was make her aware of the kind of person Buddy was, if she wasn’t already.
She was reputedly a beautiful woman, kind, shy seeming.
“That’s how she gets you,” David had said. “Bam! Before you know it, she’s got you by the nuts and your saying sorry to her for the cramp in her hand.”
David’s warnings were taken on board although they were coming from a time when his addiction was at its worst. Even he had to admit the memories were a little faded.
The moment I saw her, however, I realised why she had caused such a stir. Beautiful she was, but with a natural allure. She even had sweat on her brow as she carried a box into the City Main Harvesters store. She was smiling and laughing with the girls who had come out to help her. I followed her inside.
She laid the box on the counter. When she turned we were face to face.
“Julia Harvester?” I put to her. “Sam Crusow. I’m writing a piece…”
She stopped me with a smile and a gentle caress of my arm.
“Yes, I know you. You used to write for the Daily. You’re a terrific writer. I was ever so sorry to hear what happened to your wife. Theresa, wasn’t it?”
I hadn’t expected her to know so much about me. “Yes. Thanks.”
“And still chasing the story? That’s either very courageous of you or proof that you reporters never give up.”
Her smile smoothed. My own expression mimicked.
“I want to finish what I started,” I said to her.
“That nasty Knock Knock girl is gone now. I’m not sure what help I can be to you.”
My story began the moment my eyes set sight on the Knock Knock Club sign for the first time but when the door of the club opened it was to the wider city. There was a much bigger story there.
“I have some questions about your guest, Buddy Owen?” She looked to the phone I had slipped into my hand. “If you don’t mind my asking,” I added.
She shrugged. “I’m really busy so it’ll have to be quick.”
“Has Buddy ever mentioned to you about a little girl named Sarah?”
Julia shook her head. “No.”
“Has he said anything about the disappearance of Tawny McInney? The Baroness?”
“No,” said Julia again. “Dreadful business though. I met her a few times in Harbour House. She was friendly with my dad who was a resident too. She was sweet, laughed a lot, really perked everyone up. Why would Buddy know anything about her?”
“You know the history of the Baroness and Buddy’s uncle?”
“I do,” Julia agreed. “But that was such a long time ago and Buddy isn’t his uncle. Buddy has been really sweet and helpful to me. That’s all I know. He’s overindulged and coarse but he’s just a big pet, really.”
“There is reason to believe he is responsible for gunning down a little girl. You’ve heard the rumours that that is why Tawny was taken?”
Julia stroked my arm again. This time her grip was a little firmer.
“I would tread carefully, Mr Crusow. If there is a gunman going around you never know when you might step into his firing line.”
I wasn’t given time to absorb her threats when she opened the box she had placed on the counter and drew out a meat packet.
“With your wife gone you’ll be having trouble taking care of yourself properly.”
“I have friends around,” I said.
She passed me the meat packet. “Have this on the Harvesters. There’s more than enough to share with friends.”
The meat was thick prime, tender beef. Succulent.
“Thank you,” I said sincerely.
“You’re welcome,” was her reply.
Julia Harvester was truly a nice girl.
With the bitterness setting in, Harvester Farm was being prepared for the winter chill. The coldness was always felt more harshly in the north and the animals and crops needed to be readied.
Dr Nathan Watt was waiting in the kitchen. He had spent a very restless night in the guest bedroom and it was now early morning. That didn’t matter. Julia would be joining him soon enough. He heard her soft steps. He hoped she had slept well.
A bowl of oatmeal and a slice of toast – lightly buttered – had been laid out for her. It was her preferred breakfast when a day on the fields beckoned. When she arrived in the kitchen she wasn’t surprised to see him awake but her focus was on a text message on her phone. She gave a giggle as she read. The glow of the screen highlighted her cheek bones, the softness of her eyes shone better then than in any of the images that artist, David Finn, had ever painted of her as far as Nathan was concerned.
Still absorbed in her conversation, still failing to acknowledge him, Nathan cleared his throat. Julia giggled again as she started to compose a response.
“I prepared breakfast for you,” Nathan informed her.
Julia sat down at the table and picked up the cereal spoon. She laid the phone face down.
“You’re so sweet,” she said, finally offering him a glance. “Shouldn’t you be at the hospital?”
He hadn’t told her that Coldford General had ordered him on leave. Chief consultant Dr Ferrald had said he lacked enthusiasm.
“It takes everything you got,” Dr Ferrald had said. “If your mind isn’t on the patients you are going to make mistakes. Take some time and gather yourself. For now though, take a leave of absence.”
It didn’t matter to Nathan. When he and Julia were together, he could open a private practice. When she became pregnant the farm hands would handle the farm work. She wouldn’t be wanting to go back out onto the fields with the children to take care of and house to keep. Her mother and brother would of course still stay at the house. He supposed Nan Harvester would make a good grandmother for the children. Both of them, a boy and a girl. Hopefully the boy would come first. It would be nice to have a protective brother for his little girl. He would like to see the children to be close siblings. He was an only child. He only had his cousin Kelsey and they hated each other. He always wished it was different.
He wanted to approach the subject of their being together again but he had to be delicate. She hesitated as she lifted her spoon. She caught his gaze. She smiled. Words were forming on her lips but before she uttered them her phone beeped its little jingle she favoured. She dropped the spoon he had set for her and lifted her phone. Nathan never thought he would ever find her voice irritating, so sweet it was to the ear, but as she laughed at the response to her text it grated on his nerves.
“Who on earth is contacting you at his hour? It’s only just struck five.”
Julia pursed her lips. She started to compose another text. “A friend. They’re in business so they have an early start too. Early bird catches the worm and all that.”
“Oh?” Nathan wondered. “What’s their name?”
Julia looked up with a slight smile. “It’s not a her, sweetie. It’s a him.”
It was Nathan’s turn to frown. “I got up early. I made you breakfast. I am here for you presently and you barely speak to me? Instead, you spend your time messaging another man. That’s shameful behaviour Julia.”
Julia spoke softly. “But I didn’t ask you to do any of those things.”
Nathan started to become irritable. “I want to look after you, Jules. Why won’t you let me?”
Julia cocked her head. She pouted. “You poor doe. You know I’m not in need of help. I have all the help I need on the farm.”
“Eat your breakfast Jules. I made your favourite.”
Julia pushed her seat out from the table and stood. Nathan stood too.
“I don’t think so,” she said. “I have a busy day ahead, Nate. Perhaps you should go home.”
“I’m not going anywhere,” he barked. “Stop texting other men and start showing me some appreciation for everything I do for you.”
“Oh Nate,” she sighed. “Go home. I’m going to be on the fields all day and you are not needed.”
“Why don’t we have dinner together?” he tried.
Julia held her phone by her side. “I already have dinner plans. My friend is taking me to Delphine.”
Nathan growled. “Isn’t it enough I have to watch that freak show, Buddy Owen, lust after you but now you tell me you have dinner plans with someone else? Why didn’t you tell me?”
Julia remained calm. She knew his attention would fall to her chest as soon as she took a sharp intake of breath.
“Don’t be so rude.”
The phone bleeped again but before she could check it Nathan lunged forward. He tried to tackle her and snatch it from her hand. Used to the charge of angry cattle, Julia was too quick and pulled away holding her phone behind her back. He was leaning over her. His size was larger than hers but she was smiling.
“Give me the phone,” he demanded.
Julia raised an eyebrow. “I will not.”
Nathan made another attempt to grab at it but her reflexes were too quick.
“Curtis?” she called.
Farm hand Curtis had been nearby, readying himself for a day on the fields. Nathan hadn’t heard him arrive. Nathan stepped back immediately, seeing Curtis appear in the door way.
“You ready?” he asked. He took note of the way Julia was leaning back from Nathan and how he was looming over her but he said nothing.
“I am. I want to get started. We have a long day ahead and I’m sick of oatmeal.”
The winter preparations on Harvester Farm was an arduous task. Curtis glared at Nathan but he and the farm girl left. Nathan grumbled to himself as he cleared the table. That was when he noticed she had left her phone behind. It was a chance for him to warn this friend of hers off.
MAKE IT A LUNCH DATE INSTEAD. He text as Julia.
SURE. DELPHINE. 12PM. I’LL SHIFT RESERVATIONS. XXCX
Delphine restaurant was well lit, a large chandelier sparkled down on the luncheon crowd. All of the tables were filled but an empty one for two by the window. Its view was of the Fullerton bridge. Water, escape, building. All of these things told that Julia would have chosen that spot.
Nathan could see her tell her admirer, “a lovely spot for lunch.”
She had no right making arrangements for dinner with other men. It was disrespectful towards him. They were going to be together and he demanded she begin by cutting out all other admirers starting with her dinner date. It was difficult enough with the Kappa So frat brothers. He knew Julia was just toying with them to keep them in line but he didn’t like the way that Buddy Owen looked at her. He didn’t like how comfortable he was becoming in Julia’s company. More than that he didn’t like that she was laughing with her dinner date as though he – Nathan – was of no consequence. He gave up everything for her. He devoted himself to her and this was the thanks he was given?
It was approaching noon. First he would tell this new beau of Julia’s to back off and leave her alone then he would rid the farm of those frat brothers. Julia would see sense. Maybe a grand gesture like that would catch her interest again and show how much she meant to him.
The admirer had said in his last message to what he thought was Julia.
I’LL BE OUT OF TOWN UNTIL 2MORROW. I’LL C U AT LUNCH. XxCx
Was the C a misspelling? Was that his name? He had been tempted to dig deeper but he had to be careful. A lot of information Julia would already know even if they had just met. Julia had her way of ingratiating herself to people quickly. Before long they wanted to offer her everything they had.
He checked back on some of their exchange. Nothing sexual, thank God. That’s not to say there weren’t deleted messages though. From what he could read they were merely discussing life on a farm. He did ask her if she had ever masturbated a bull but she quickly laughed that off, changed the subject and he sweetened again.
What kind of company was this for her to keep? Perhaps he was reading too much into it but it seemed like Julia was delighted at the prospect of having a meal with this creep. Nathan would set him straight.
The time slipped to two minutes past noon. The date hadn’t shown up yet. He was either running a little late or Julia would have been stood up. She did say he was in business. Maybe business had kept him. Maybe that would be the end of it. Perhaps he had messaged again after Julia came in from the fields and took her phone back. Maybe she had learned all about Nathan’s little deception. But that couldn’t be it. She didn’t say anything about it. But then she wouldn’t. She would let him come to the restaurant and let him look a fool. She and her new ‘friend’ in business would be tittering behind their hands at Nathan’s expense. All he could do was return to the farmhouse, demand she call her friend and tell him they were no longer to be in touch. Then he would take her upstairs and show her how much he cared.
Nathan watched the empty table. The Maitre’d stopped.
“Sir, we are currently serving our luncheon course. If you don’t have a reservation, I really must ask you to leave.”
Snobbish and with the slight hint of a Luen accent. Probably put on. She was a severe looking woman with large sagging breasts that tugged on the buttons of her white shirt. Nathan didn’t know what name the business ‘friend’ would have put the table under.
“I’m meeting someone,” he decided to hang on for an extra few minutes.
The Maitre’d was not impressed but she left him alone to watch the table longingly. If Julia liked that table so much he could book it for them. With his ordered leave from the hospital he wouldn’t be able to afford it for very long so he would have to act fast.
A few more minutes passed. It wouldn’t be long before the Maitre’d would be onto him again. He sighed. Bitterly defeated, he resolved to leave.
Long, pianist fingers clasped his shoulder. A man’s voice hissed in his ear.
“You must be Dr Watt. I believe you’re here to see me.”
Nathan was spun round to face a young man of about nineteen in a finely tailored dark, grey suit. His darkening fair hair was neatly parted. His full lips were stretched in a Cheshire Cat grin. His brown eyes were saucer like but devoid of any warmth.
“George Beckingridge. You’ve been texting me. Let’s eat.”
“We might as well use the table if Julia isn’t coming,” said George.
Nathan said nothing. He followed the Billionaire Boy to the table and took a seat across from him. He watched the heir to the Beckingridge Tower closely. Not only was he the richest young man in Coldford, but if rumours were true he was also a brother murdering, puppy torturing psychopath. He had spent ten years missing when his music teacher kidnapped him. The teacher – Vincent Baines – had been a Harbour House resident along with David Finn and the Baroness. They had been close friends. Mr Baines was now in The Boss regretting the day he accepted George as a pupil. His Aunt Elizabeth was still interim CEO of the Tower but it was only the matter of time before the boy who most claim murdered his mother at age eight, became the controlling force behind the biggest fortune in the shady city, with a shark tank filled with hungry board members at his beck and call.
“You look surprised,” George gave a nasally laugh. “Didn’t you want to meet for lunch? I had to change the reservations and everything. You text me from Julia’s phone.”
Nathan could ask how George came about that information but Julia was always far more aware than she would let on. It wouldn’t surprise him if she had deliberately left her phone behind so that he could arrange this for himself. She and her new friend were tittering behind their hands at his expense after all.
A highly trained silver service waitress approached them. Without rudely interrupting them she waited for George to acknowledge her.
“Can I get something for you gentlemen to drink?”
Petite, mid-thirties, skilled at her job. George looked at Nathan though, rather than the waitress.
“A bottle of Cristal, I think. We’re going to celebrate.”
Nathan lowered his gaze. “I should go,” he decided.
“No!” George barked.
If the waitress was taken aback, she didn’t show it. Some of the other diners looked up though. George gave his nasally snigger again.
“A bottle of Cristal and we’ll have two of whatever the chef’s specials are today.”
“An excellent choice, Mr Beckingridge,” the waitress agreed, collecting their menus. “Chef is simply a wonder with veal. You won’t be disappointed.”
The waitress departed leaving George and his luncheon companion alone. “I come here a lot now,” he stated. “The chef at home is on my aunt’s staff. She might try to poison me. I know the chef here though. I know him very well.”
“What do you want George?”
“That’s Mr Beckingridge to you,” George snarled. “I didn’t arrange this. You did. I’m glad you did though. Julia told me what the look on your face would be like and it does look stupid.” Here George giggled boyishly. “I’m acquainting myself with the finer things in life. Julia is quite fine, isn’t she?”
At first Nathan was speechless but then he managed a whimper.
“I’m in love with her. She loves me too,” he said.
George’s lip curled like he was a little boy who still believed girls were a sure way to catch cooties.
The waitress returned with the bottle of Cristal and two finely chipped Champagne glasses. Nathan placed his hand over his before the waitress could offer him a sample.
“I’m not staying,” he informed them as the waitress presented the bottle in a perfect silver service manner.
“Yes, he is,” George insisted. “We’re on a date here and he’s not going to leave me to drink alone.”
Nathan removed his hand from the glass. The waitress poured.
George drank first. He sipped. He held the glass the way lessons in etiquette had taught him. He noticed Nathan looking up to stare at him.
“Do you want Julia?” he finally asked.
George settled the glass down. “You needn’t worry about me. My tastes lie…elsewhere.”
“I shouldn’t have come here.”
George pursed his lips. “Why? I liked the kisses in your text. I liked your sweet words.”
Nathan couldn’t tell if the Billionaire Boy was being sarcastic. He fell to silence again. George started to laugh.
“Drink the champagne, Nathan,” he instructed.
Nathan took a sip of the expensive Cristal but he didn’t savour it.
“Tastes like feet,” George grinned. “Doesn’t it?”
“What do you want Mr Beckingridge?” Nathan asked.
They had never met in person but he had seen him many times on the news. The kidnapping story, the death of his mother and brother, the rumours of psychopathy his aunt wasn’t shy in sharing. He had noted his cold stare through the television screen many times as though he had been addressing him directly. Now being sat across the table from him in person was unsettling.
“Julia is my friend. She’s the best girl in the world. I like her. But she tells me you aren’t happy with the boys on the farm.”
With Beckingridge Firm competing with Owen Inc. for a controlling share in the farm it occurred to Nathan that maybe the Billionaire Boy could be a way of ridding Julia of Buddy and his brothers for good. If Julia had befriended George maybe he could too.
“I worry about those frat brothers around Julia. I’m worried that they will hurt her. Buddy Owen is…”
Nathan curbed his words immediately when he noticed the soft expression on George’s face dissolve into a scowl. “Shut up!” he barked.
Nathan’s lips pursed tightly. George saw how uncomfortable he had made the doctor and he relished it.
“Buddy is a God,” he said. “He says things people are too scared to admit. He leads where most other tiny pissers are afraid to go. He’s a God and you should be thankful your mother opened her legs when she did so you could be there to see him on the farm.”
If George had actually witnessed Buddy trying to work the farm, he may have felt a little differently. This was not for Nathan to argue though.
“Did your dad have God balls Nathan?” The question was rhetorical. “Don’t worry. Mine didn’t either but Buddy is going to show me how to be a God. He’s my brother.” George opened the jacket of his suit to show a Kappa So badge on his shirt. “He’s my brother and we’re brothers for life.”
George had insisted the doctor stay and have his lunch just like he had used Julia’s phone to arrange. He insisted the doctor be the one to drink the Cristal and finish it.
“Finish the bottle. I bought it for you,” he said.
He kept laughing as the doctor grimaced. He was drunk by one o’clock and feeling sick. Nathan tried to excuse himself but George was persistent. He tried to summon the Maitre’d to help but when she turned to the Billionaire Boy and asked, “Is this man bothering you, Mr Beckingridge?” Nathan knew it would be no use.
George watched on with a grin as Nathan forced all three courses. He hated veal and despite the meat being succulent and well prepared it still caused his stomach to gargle. By the final bite he could barely speak.
“Drink up,” George kept saying. “Eat up. Don’t play with your food. Don’t waste it.”
“May I be excused?” Nathan asked. “Please let me go. I think I’m going to be sick.”
George’s lip curled. He had chosen a large glass of Jolly Shopper soda pop for himself. It wasn’t usually what Delphine served their luncheon crowds but for their best customer they were happy to make an exception. George took the glass in both hands and brought it to his lips. He glugged, glugged, glugged so loudly some of the other patrons looked up at him.
By the time he left Delphine Nathan’s head was spinning. He emptied the contents of his stomach at the foot of the street where he had parked his car. Luckily the town of Filton was quieter than City Main so he managed to get away without drawing too much attention to himself. He climbed into his car and drove the North route back towards Bournton. A CPD patrol approached but luckily they took the exit to Fullerton Bridge. They seemed in a hurry. They were in too much of a hurry to notice Nathan’s car swaying slightly.
He did catch the attention of Curtis as the car screeched to a halt at the bottom of the east acre. Failing to park in any cohesive manner Nathan stumbled out of his car and vomited again.
“Hey cunt!” Curtis yelled at him. “I hope you’re going to clean that up.”
Nathan couldn’t give him any attention, he simply waved him off and started to stumble towards the farm house. The fresh air dancing around his face was helping clear his head. Julia was nowhere around. She would probably be out on deliveries or maybe she was going on to rendezvous with George so they could laugh about how much of a fool Nathan had made of himself.
Buddy and his brothers were in the east acre tasked with preparing the ground for the winter. They stopped when they saw Nathan. Still drunk on a full guzzled bottle of champagne Nathan almost stumbled. Buddy emitted an uproarious laugh. His brothers followed suit. Chad cackled along with the chapter leader. Cooper watched with a smile on his face and his arms folded.
“You’re wasted!” Buddy called to him. “You gotta get me some of your gear, bro!”
He proceeded to hold his nostril and hop around the field. Chad was now in hysterics. Nathan was in no mood for their nonsense.
“Can’t handle the Charlie?”
Nathan rushed towards the farm house. Still Buddy and his friends taunted him.
“Fucking coke head,” Nathan muttered bitterly when he got inside. He had a plan for ridding the farm of Buddy and his bros. Julia was clearly looking for the next best thing but Dr Nathan Watt could show her she already had the best she was ever going to have. It didn’t matter that Buddy Owen’s family had the chance to make something of the farm that Julia had worked so hard to protect. She would learn who was truly behind her, who truly wanted her and it wasn’t Buddy ‘goddamn’ Owen.
Having just returned from school in the city, Susie was stood in the hallway. Her pink back pack was still over her shoulders. She was clutching a horse doll, playing with its hair nervously. As she watched Nathan she noted he was drunk. She didn’t like seeing people drunk. She saw her dad drunk once and it frightened her. He had been so frustrated with work and he had drunk too many beers. Grandma was yelling at him to get to bed. He calmed down when he saw Susie cry. He kissed her and said he was sorry he was just a big idiot. His breath smelled awful. He told her she would never see him in that state again and he kept true to his word.
“You are better than your father,” Grandma reminded him.
Susie knew no harm would come to her from her daddy no matter how drunk he got but with other drunk men she was not so sure.
“Hi, Susie,” Nathan greeted. He was starting to stand a little straighter. The cloudiness over his mind was starting to dissipate as he collected his medical bag from a locked cupboard he kept it in.
“Where are you going?” the little girl asked.
How to explain it to a child. “I’m going away and I might not see you again.”
“Oh?” The little girl was taken aback. Nathan had become such a feature at the farm house it hadn’t been what she had expected but she wasn’t too upset. She continued to play with the hair of her toy horse. Mimsy she called it because it looked a lot like the real-life Harvester horse named Mimsy.
“Bye then,” Susie replied.
She didn’t notice him reach into his medical bag.
“We’re friends right?” he put to her.
Susie managed a smile. He didn’t look as drowsy as he had before. He even looked a little sad.
“Sure,” she shrugged.
“And we both like Jules, right?” he asked.
Susie nodded. She smiled again. Nathan wasn’t so bad. He was a bit of a blow hard – that’s what dad called him – but he was okay really. He wasn’t funny like Buddy and he was always trying to tell her off but that was just his way. Buddy didn’t tell her off. In fact, he found it hilarious when she said things she shouldn’t. He laughed so hard when she told Chad to ‘Fuck off’
“She’s a feisty little critter cause she’s Kappa So!” he had cheered.
Excitable, fun, with flowing blonde hair and an accent like a movie star. Susie couldn’t understand why Nathan thought Julia would ever choose him over Buddy. She guessed grown-ups looked for different things.
“I’ll miss you,” he said sincerely.
Maybe Nathan wasn’t so bad after all. Julia had always said he was a good friend and he was Susie’s friend too she supposed. He just liked Julia more than she liked him. Grown-ups were weird.
“You’ll look after Julia for me, won’t you?” he asked of her.
Looking after Julia and Kappa So mascot. Susie’s pride swelled with her responsibilities on the farm.
“Sure,” she agreed.
Nathan’s expression became softer. She still didn’t like the drunken look in his eyes.
“Can I get a hug goodbye?”
Buddy was returning a bucket to the stables like a good boy. He was laying low. His father would be on Coldford soil soon enough and those loyalist sons a bitches would pay for what they did to him and to Pops. Them and their Fleet scum ass kissers. He didn’t let the frustration boil over though. The farm work itself was humiliating but he realised the harder he worked, the more he pretended to care about dumb shit like the horses, the warmer Julia became to him. That and it kept fucking cave man farm hand Glenn off his back. Chad seemed to be taking a step further and prancing around the farm like he was one of them. He even had a beer with Curtis. He would have to be reminded he was a brother and they were brothers for life.
He dropped the bucket on the shed floor. One of the horses, named Pippen, snorted at him.
“Shut the fuck up!” Buddy snorted back. Pippen shook his head. The truth was Buddy wasn’t actually annoyed which surprised him. Given the circumstances and the fact that it was now day 7 without powder, he really should have been losing it. Maybe the farm air was doing him good. He never really made the most of ranch life as a boy. He just wanted to shoot the horses in the ass with one of the air rifles. He patted Pippen’s nose as he remembered how fast a little foal had run after he aimed. CRACK. The dumb ass foal tried to leap the fence, got caught and tore the tendon in its front right leg. It had to be shot with a real gun.
“Ah,” Buddy sighed, still stroking Pippen. “Memories.”
He had caught Hell for that one. Luckily not from The Cappy. He had been away on business as usual. But Uncle Walt was the best rancher of all of them. He made Buddy run across the enclosure and shot him in the ass with an air rifle. Buddy leapt that fence. He leapt that fence real good and he cleared it. He didn’t get caught like the dumbass little horse.
Buddy scooped up some feed for Pippen. The horse munched angrily from his hand. Buddy laughed to himself as he remembered Uncle Walt dragging the wayward preteen back to the ranch house to nurse the wound.
“I had mind to aim straight up your ass, son,” Walt had groaned, “but since I wasn’t going to see you spitting bullets I figured, what’s the point?”
The air rifle had done enough damage. Buddy was rubbing the fleshy part of his left ass cheek. Walt was a cousin to the The Cappy. He was a prominent figure in Buddy’s life. He was the father when The Cappy himself was rarely around. Buddy suspected Walt was even banging his Mama but there was no proof of that. Buddy liked Walt. Walt knew how to get shit done.
He thought of Julia. Now those thoughts were stirring. Wait a minute … Wasn’t there naked paintings of her somewhere? An immediate check ensued.
The barn was empty so it seemed no use to waste the quiet time. he reached his hands into his pants. There was a noise of someone stumbling in so he quickly turned.
“Hey, little mascot!” he cheered. “How was school? Shit, right?”
Susie mumbled something but it was incoherent. It was then he noticed her already large eyes were even larger. They had reddened like she had ingested a zombie virus. Her pupils were hugely dilated. Her little body was trembling. Buddy was no doctor but he knew a lot about cocaine abuse.
“Susie?” He tried to speak calmly the way the Kappa So coke whores would when they were trying to bring him on a come down. The little girl tried to leap excitedly but she fell on the floor.
He remembered Chad once throwing ice water over home when it looked as though he was overdosing.
“Who the fuck gave you coke?” he asked.
Susie couldn’t answer.
He lifted the water bucket. He had to act fast. Glenn would have seen his daughter wander towards the shed. He always had an eye on her no matter what he was doing. He was telepathic or something when it came to the kid. Who would get the blame? The fucking powder fiend.
“Not touched any in fucking days,” he was growling. “What the actual fuck brah!” He poured water over the little girl but it didn’t seem to do much good. “Damn it, Susie!” he pleaded. He lifted her into his arms and gave her a firm pat to her cheeks. “Snap out of it.”
If Cooper or Chad had given his little mascot coke, he was going to raise all kinds of Hell. There was no way they should have Charlie without telling him. He had been sober for what felt like forever. What the fuck!
The tremors of the little girl’s trembling body became worse with the addition of the cold water. He didn’t like it. He didn’t like it one bit. She was his little mascot. She was Kappa So and someone had tried to hurt her. No powder in days and the little girl turns up three sheets to the wind. Ain’t no one going to believe he had nothing to do with it. Everything would be ruined. The little girl was sick, The Cappy would be furious but not before Glenn beat his ass. Julia would hate him and all along some asshole had powder on the farm this whole time.
“Get off her!” Glenn came charging towards him like one of the bulls he was used to wrangling.
Buddy tried to stop him moving her. She was now struggling to breathe.
“You’ve gotta get a doctor, bro. She’s taken coke. She’s taken coke!” Buddy tried to warn Glenn. Normally when the coke whores or even one of the brothers had snorted too much they would just be thrown out on their asses. If the exposure got to them before they sobered up that was their own damn fault. This was different. Buddy needed that little girl to live.
Glenn snatched Buddy by the throat, crushing his trachea. He punched him with a blow ‘The Bournton Blizzard’ would have been proud of. Buddy was sent backwards. The force almost broke a board on Pippen’s paddock.
“She needs a doc, bro,” Buddy protested.
Glenn snarled. “I’ll deal with you later.” He picked Susie up into his arms. “You better hope to Christ and everything he stands for that she’s okay.”
Buddy hadn’t picked himself up yet. The hit from Glenn had removed any strength he had had in his legs.
“Get her to a doctor, brah.”
Glenn carried Susie away in a rush. He hoped he could catch Nathan before he left.
Deliveries in the city had been more time consuming than Julia had anticipated. Her brother, Jonathan, had taken the City Main ones. Julia had gone further to Cardyne and then on to Swantin.
Darkness was beginning to set in by the time she had arrived back on Harvester Farm. The lights were on in the dining room of the farm house. Her dinner plans with George were cancelled due to Nathan and she was famished. The fields were quiet. Glenn’s own truck was gone. Some of the farm hands were having a beer as they relaxed after a long day’s hard work. They acknowledged her with a smile. She waved back.
A light was on in the milking shed where Buddy and his brothers were still stationed. Chick Owen had told them to remain where they were until he arrived from the Great States. The Owen estate could be unsafe and their Chapter House was still devastated after the combined loyalist/fleet attack.
There was no laughter there which was unusual. Normally Buddy’s voice could be heard above the others. He was certainly nothing if not strong spirited. The warning from Reginald Penn, the loss of his much respected and admired grandfather hadn’t broken him. Why would it when he knew his father would be arriving any minute and would clear the mess in one fell sweep? The Cappy was a powerful man and whilst he was around the son would laugh at the attempts of their enemies to frighten them. But something had given him sobering thoughts.
There was an eery silence as Julia stepped inside the house. There was no laughter, no merriment from the dining room.
“I’m home!” Julia called. “My dinner plans were cancelled. I do hope there is enough for one more setting.”
Julia looked in the mirror that hung by the door. Some strands of hair had escaped her pony tail. She fixed them and tidied her clothes.
“Mummy? Jon?” she called.
From the dining hall emerged Nan Harvester.
“It’s good you’re home, buttercup.” Nan greeted with a warm embrace and a kiss of her daughter’s cheek. “Of course we will have a place set for you. There’s plenty to go around. As a matter of fact, we have a guest. So why don’t you go and get washed up?”
“Who’s the guest?” Julia asked, taking note of her mother’s excitement.
Nan patted her arm. “Just hurry and get cleaned. We don’t want to hold dinner back too long.”
Julia agreed to her mother’s request. When she reached the foot of the stair case her mother added, “Use the new wash. It’s apple scented.”
Julia paused for thought. Nan smiled sweetly as though the words were of no consequence.
Julia changed from her Harvester shirt. Without knowing the importance of the guest, she chose a plain white blouse. She used the apple wash on her hands and face, enjoying how the sweet scent covered the smell of the Harvester van she had been riding in all day.
Returning back downstairs, a warmth was now radiating from the dining room. She could hear voices now. Jonathan was offering their guest an anecdote of his trip abroad. He was telling the story heartily just like their father used to. Jacob could always tell a good story.
“And here she is, the lady of the moment!”
Jon’s story was had been interrupted by their guest. Sat at their father’s place at the table was Dr Winslow – eminent clinician, saviour of her father’s life initially and bullying force she had worked so hard to get rid of.
“My darling Julia, you look so pale. I hope they aren’t working you too hard,” commented the doctor with an accommodating smile.
Julia smiled too as she took her seat. “Well, well Gregory,” she replied. “It’s been a while. How have you been?”
“Terrific,” he replied. “Just terrific. Everything is getting back on track with Harbour House.”
Julia gushed. “I’m so glad to hear that. It did give so many people hope of recovery.”
Winslow’s head dropped slightly onto his left shoulder as he observed her more closely. “It’s just a pity one such person wasn’t my dear friend Jacob.”
Julia’s eyes brightened. “We all have our losses.”
“We might as well forget our losses and appreciate what we do have. Your mother was kind enough to invite me to join you for this lovely meal. I must say, Nan, it smells positively delectable.”
Julia reached out and took her mother’s hand in hers. She gave it a gentle squeeze.
“She’s such a treasure, isn’t she?” said the daughter. She looked across the table to Winslow. “Pass the potatoes please.”
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