Forever His Texas Bride (Bachelors of Battle Creek #3)(10)By: Linda Broday
A key grated in the lock, and the squat deputy named Dingleby came through the outside door, bringing the stench of his unwashed body with him. He carried a tin plate.
“Rise and shine.” He bypassed Brett’s cell and slid the food under Rayna’s iron door. “Nothing for you, breed, on account of Sheriff Oldham saying we ain’t gonna feed you. It would be a waste, since you’re fixin’ to get your neck stretched an’ all.”
Brett stood to his full height and moved to his cell door. “Then I will see the judge today?”
“Nope.” The deputy hugged the earthen wall in an effort to get well out of range of Brett’s long arms. As he moved, his low-hanging holster slipped around his legs, tripping him. A silver pocket watch fell out. The weasel quickly raised the belt, gathered his watch, and hurried to the door. “Ain’t gonna be no judge an’ no trial. You ain’t a citizen of this country. You’re a savage, so we don’t have to.”
The slamming of the iron door echoed in Brett’s head. Not a citizen? He’d been raised with whites, had white brothers. He didn’t know any of the ways of his own people, how to speak their language, or any of their customs. He didn’t even know to which tribe he belonged. He doubted they’d want him either.
Maybe they’d also put him to death for being born.
Rayna handed a piece of bread through the bars. “Take this, Brett. I’ll share what I have.”
“You eat it, Rayna. I’ll be fine.” He slowly returned to his bunk.
No judge. No trial. No hope.
The old woman at the orphanage who’d given him the name Liberty should’ve had her head examined. There was none to be had for people like him.
* * *
Gnawing worry had chewed Cooper Thorne’s gut for the last sixty miles. Something bad had happened to Brett. He never took this long delivering a string of horses.
“Are you sure he would’ve come this way, Coop?” Rand Sinclair swiveled in the saddle.
“He told me he had a horse to deliver to a man near Walnut Springs. He wanted to go a different route.” Cooper stood in the stirrups, stretching his legs. “You know our brother’s need to avoid people.”
“I do indeed.” Rand chuckled. “He’ll go an extra hundred miles just so he won’t have to talk to anyone.”
They rode on in silence. Finally they came to a farm in a little valley. A man looked up as they approached the house.
“Can I help you gentlemen?” he said, rising from where he was working on the well pulley.
Cooper dismounted. “I hope so. I’m the sheriff over in Battle Creek, and I’m looking for my brother. He’s tall and wears moccasins. Name’s Brett Liberty.”
“Oh, you must be talking about the half-breed.” The farmer took a bandanna from around his neck and wiped his forehead.
Rand pushed his way forward. “Have you seen him?”
“He came this way. Nice enough sort. He was shot, bleeding something awful. The sheriff took him to Steele’s Hollow. Your brother asked me to tell you that if you stopped by.”
“Who shot him?” Cooper’s brain tried to digest it all.
“Reckon it was Sheriff Oldham.”
“He hates Indians. Thinks the only good one is a dead one.”
Cooper touched the brim of his hat and turned toward his horse. Rand did the same.
“Reckon you’d best hurry,” said the farmer.
“Why’s that?” Rand put his foot in the stirrup.
“My neighbor said they’re gonna hang him.”
“Hang him? What for?” Hot anger swept through Cooper.
Rand let loose a string of cusswords. “Don’t tell us. The sheriff hates Indians.”
The farmer spat on the ground. “Yep.”
Cooper vaulted into the saddle. Rebel danced around in a circle and sidestepped for a minute until Cooper gained control of the animal. Of all times to be skittish.
“Better hurry,” the man repeated. “Gonna hang him today. A real shame. Your brother promised me five of his best horses if I told you where he was.”
“You’ll get your horses no matter what, mister,” Rand said, slapping the hindquarters of his horse with his hat.