Macarastor Book Four: Of Death and Justice by Bob Giel by Bob Giel - Read Online

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As Tom Cord's direction in life changes, a friend passes and a family is formed.  Cason Macara becomes embroiled in a crime that threatens his life and two children find themselves the pivotal key to its solution.  These are the ingredients in the latest Macarastor adventure.

Published: Bob Giel on
ISBN: 9781501421808
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Macarastor Book Four - Bob Giel

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Fifteen

For My Beautiful Granddaughter,

Rachel,

without whose assistance

this work would not be complete;

neither would its author.

Copyright © Robert Giel 2014

Cover design by Jessica Grassi

Prologue

In the weeks following the October, 1889 raid perpetrated on the town of Macarastor by Major Julian Brand and his army of desperados, much healing was accomplished.  Not only were many of the targeted buildings reconstructed, but the bodies and minds of its citizens were restored from the physical and emotional trauma inflicted upon them.  Working together, they not only saw the fruits of their labor but were heartened by the fact that their town was gradually coming back from the terrible damage caused by the attack.

Under the expert direction of Sam Luce, buildings that were completely destroyed or deemed too damaged to restore were demolished and new structures were begun on the vacated sites.  Renovations were started on those that were salvageable.

Unfortunately, the fast approaching Wyoming winter brought an abrupt halt to outdoor activities as accumulating snow began preventing work to the outsides of damaged shops.  While labor continued indoors, extraordinary measures were employed to allow businesses to carry on.  Ezra Schecter’s saloon entered the winter with a gaping hole in the roof but managed to keep Macarastor’s citizens well lubricated by the use of a tarp covering the opening to prevent entry of inclement weather.  Maggie Cord’s restaurant, with superficial repairs to the ceiling, operated quite efficiently without a second floor, which had been extensively damaged by a dynamite blast.  Less impaired, Cason Macara’s general store had been one of the first structures restored and was now functioning perfectly.  The owners of many other buildings which were in varying states of disrepair, made due as they entered the winter, putting outdoor repairs on hold until warmer weather allowed pursuit of these activities.  Refusing to succumb to any adversity, these stalwart pioneers carried on business, however limping it may have been, with an eye toward the day when their town would once again be whole.

People who could not help because of wounds sustained in the encounter were healed emotionally as well as physically by the knowledge that they had prevailed against almost insurmountable odds.  Their injuries were readily tended by the kindly Dr. Everett Shocklaw, whose military medical experience became indispensable.  Since he was familiar with making on the spot life and death decisions, his expertise saved many and never allowed fatality to triumph without a fight.

Among the sidelined, U.S. Marshal Tom Cord, on sick leave, healed slowly.  The bullet wound he had sustained in his upper leg during the firefight with Major Brand had relegated him to immobility for the first few weeks and then allowed only limited movement with the assistance of a cane after that.  Cord did not make a good patient.  He became withdrawn and, with too much time on his hands, did more thinking than was healthy under these circumstances.

As her husband stood in the snow covered back yard of their home, staring at nothing, Maggie Cord peered out the kitchen window at the tall figure supported by the cane and finally decided to act on the concern she had kept hidden since the change had manifested itself.  Grabbing a cape to shield herself from early December cold, she stepped out onto the back porch.  She felt the bite of the weather through her heavy woolen dress but her mission was more important.

Tom. she called.

There was no response.  So deep in thought was he that his ears did not pick up the sound.  His mind mulled the events of the last few weeks and made no sense of the fact that his usual quick healing was absent from the equation.  This was taking way too long.  He had become so dependent on the cane that even target practice had become an almost impossible chore.  On the rare occasions when he had resolved to engage in it, his hand shook, his aim was terribly off and the damn cane got in the way.

There was no explaining what was happening to him.  It was as if his interest in life had been somehow turned off, and, with it, the healing of the wound seemed to slow to a crawl.  Even his attempts to mentally communicate with his Apache blood brother, Kaahtenay, for advice, were unsuccessful.  In the past, the shaman had cut through the clouds of confusion and had pointed Cord in the right direction, but of late there had not even been a connection.

Tom. Maggie called again, this time with more force in her voice.

Now she saw recognition as his head moved in conjunction with her call.  She approached and placed a hand on his arm.  His stiff stance relaxed slightly.

You haven’t been yourself for weeks.  What can I do to help you?

Cord turned and regarded his beautiful blond wife, the love of his life, realizing that not only had he withdrawn within himself, but he had inadvertently been punishing her by his actions.  The sadness in his eyes drew her to him and she embraced him tenderly, laying her head against his chest in that familiar way.  He sighed heavily and wrapped his arms around her.

Maggie, he whispered, I’m sorry but I’m not sure you can help me.  This is something I’ve got to work through myself.

But what is it?  What’s pulling you away from me?

He pulled her back to view her face.

I promise you nothing will ever do that.  It’s me.  I don’t know that I can do it anymore.

Do what?  Tom, please tell me.

The job, Maggie, the law.

Then quit the law.  You’re more important.

I haven’t made that decision yet.

But it’s a possibility, isn’t it?

Yes.

Maggie was elated by the fact that, after eight years of marriage, Tom was finally at least considering ending that portion of his life in which danger was his constant companion.  Thrilled at the prospect, Maggie knew that it would not happen until he had contemplated every possibility.  If nothing else, he was thorough in his decisions, and steadfast to a fault.  She was guarded with her next statement.

You know I’ll support whatever you decide, but you have to be comfortable with it.

Cord smiled at her.  He was not ready yet. More thinking needed to be done.  Knowing that she was with him no matter what made it easier but the pondering was still required.  Hoping to put her mind at ease, he said: I’ll work it out.

Later that day saw Cord driving the buggy into Macarastor at a slow pace.  The cane rested beside him on the seat and his left leg, the wounded one, was stretched to almost straight to ease the strain on the injury.  Beaten down snow from previous traffic lined the street and made more difficult the team’s task of hauling the wagon in a straight line.  Several times the wheels took their own course, following ruts made by other conveyances.

A gust of cold wind hit Cord in the face and caused him to pull down hard on the brim of his big brown hat to secure it in place.  He directed the team toward the doctor’s office.

Now forty, Cord was still fairly trim but somewhat heavier than he preferred.  Inactivity was the obvious cause of this.  His face was also fuller now and, while he was still pleasant looking with the mustache and goatee he had always worn, age lines in his face were more prevalent.  His frame was still big and muscular, his low activity level having not been long enough at this point to facilitate any atrophy.  The big brown double breasted hip length coat would never have allowed a holster and revolver to be worn beneath it but, since his placement on sick leave, he had carried neither a sidearm nor his badge of office.

Looking around as the buggy approached its destination. Cord saw the progress that had been made so far in the rebuilding of the almost war-torn town.  He marveled at the spirit and the tenacity of its citizens and was proud that he had been instrumental in preventing further devastation than that which had transpired.

Townspeople going about their business greeted him and he nodded and smiled.  But inside he was not smiling.  The slow healing of his wound coupled with his doubts about being able to continue his service as a lawman was tearing him up and he needed to resolve this as quickly and sensibly as possible.  This drive was the impetus that caused this unscheduled trip.

As the conveyance came alongside the boardwalk, Cord reined in the team and set the brake.  Wrapping the reins around the brake lever, he took the cane and used it to assist himself onto the sidewalk which had been shoveled clean of snow.  Then there was the slow, limping walk to the door of Dr. Shocklaw’s office.  When not in use, the wounded leg tended to stiffen up, making movement not only painful but more difficult.

The doctor looked up from his desk as Cord entered.  His bald head glistened a bit from the daylight that peeked through the open doorway.  A puzzled look came over his long angular face as he recognized Cord and realized that his next checkup was not for several weeks.

Why, Tom, what brings you back so soon? he asked.

Cord closed the door and propped himself on the cane, trying to gain some comfort.

I need to understand why this leg is not healing.  Seems like it’ll never get back to full use.

Shocklaw leaned back in his chair.

It is healing, Tom, just not as quickly as you’d like.  I tried to explain to you that bullet tore up a lot of muscle tissue.  It takes time for a wound like that to knit and regenerate.  Believe me, it’s doing fine.

Well, I’m not.  I’m tired of doing nothing.  I couldn’t help with the rebuilding.  Hell, I can’t even hook up a team without Maggie’s help.

The doctor studied his patient closely.

There’s something else bothering you, Tom.  What is it?

I’m just not sure I want to continue as a marshal.  Not sure I can do the job anymore.

I can guarantee you that you’ll be physically able to continue once you’ve healed.  But this is not physical, is it?

I’m not sure what it is, Doc.  I just can’t get it out of my head.

Afraid I can’t help you with that, Tom.  I’m a physical doctor, not a head doctor.  Cason would make a better counselor than I would.  I suggest you go on down the street and talk to him.

Cord thought for a second and then nodded.

Believe I’ll do that, Doc.  Thanks.

Minutes later, having forced himself to hobble the distance from the doctor’s office to Macara’s store, Cord opened the door and stepped inside to find Cason Macara behind the counter awaiting his next customer.

Macara looked toward Cord and smiled, then, noticing the frown on Cord’s face, showed concern.

Thomas, what ails you?  You look like you’ve got the weight of the world on your shoulders.

Cord approached his friend and said simply: That’s how I feel.

Itching to get back to work, are you?  Aye, I know how that feels.  But you’ve got to...

It’s not that. Cord interrupted, Truth be told, it’s just the opposite.

Macara eyed Cord carefully, stroking his full red beard.

Step into me office, boy-o.  We can talk in private.

Macara led the way into the living quarters of the store, separated from the selling floor by a heavy curtain.  Cord dutifully followed.

Always able to elicit more from the usually tight lipped Cord, Macara opened the probe into his friend’s problem: Now, lad, what’s chewing at your craw?

Not exactly sure. Cord said absently, Leg’s not healing fast enough, cane keeps getting in the way.  Cason, all of a sudden, I’ve got a bellyful of marshaling.

Macara thought for a long moment and then, having organized his thoughts, tried to help.

The leg’ll heel soon enough and that’ll get rid of the cane.  That’s the least of your problems.  Are you thinking of quitting?

It's crossed my mind more than once.

You know, it’s not a job you can do proper if your heart’s not in it.

I know that.

And what would you do if you quit?  Have you thought about that?  You’re not the one to just step back and retire, don’t you know?

Macara’s Irish brogue was becoming more prevalent as he delved further into this situation.

I’m not looking to retire. Cord answered, I just don’t think I can do the job justice is all.

Macara paced a bit and stroked his beard while he tried to sift through this.  Then an avenue opened in his mind and he pursued it.

Let me ask you something, lad, how do you feel about the law?

Same as always. Cord replied readily, It should be obeyed and upheld.

Would you be interested in a job where you see that the law is upheld but you don’t wear a badge?

I might.  What are you getting at?

Satisfied that he had awakened an interest in the idea, Macara quickly moved to his paper strewn desk and began rummaging for a particular item, mumbling: It’s here somewhere.  After several seconds of shuffling papers, he found the piece and turned to Cord with his hand extended.

Have a look.

Cord took the paper and read it carefully.  It was a mail advertisement regarding the impending opening of the Sprague Correspondence School of Law in Detroit, Michigan and it solicited applications for its first year of study.  Cord’s face showed the interest he was experiencing as he digested all the information provided.  Macara waited until Cord had finished reading and then pursued it.

What do you think, lad?

You want me to become a lawyer?

Boy-o, I don’t want you to be anything you don’t want to be.  What I’m trying to do is point you in the direction you seem to want to go in.

Cord again looked at the advertisement.  His thoughts echoed the list of supporting data that Macara began enumerating.

It’s a different way of upholding the law.  You see that justice is done.  You see that every man gets his rights in court.  You get at the truth like you’ve always done.  You just don’t do it with a badge and a gun.

Cord thought for a long moment.

You might be onto something here. Cord agreed.

Not me, you. Macara snapped back, It’s you that’s got to decide this.  But, I can tell you this, if you decide to do it, you can do it right here in Macarastor using the U.S. mail.  There’s no traveling to Detroit.  You do it all right here and you don’t even have to wait till you’re leg’s healed.

Cord perked up for the first time since his