A short tag to Splinter Group
The house was finally quiet. Children slept with full bellies while their parents held onto hope for the first time in years. Scott let his tired body sink into the comfort of the armchair and the anonymity of shadows. With his eyes closed it was easy to fool himself that he was alone and that suited his mood just fine.
He was hovering on the edge of sleep when the familiar jingling of spurs pulled him back. “Johnny,” he said by way of greeting.
“Howdy, Brother. Thought you’d be all tucked up in bed by now.” Johnny’s tone was gently teasing.
Glass clinked against glass, signalling Johnny’s intention to stay. Regretting the loss of his solitude, Scott accepted the drink handed to him by his brother.
“You missed the party,” Scott said. He considered the liquor, but put it down untouched.
“Not my idea of a good time.” Johnny sat across from him, totally at ease. “Besides, they were your strays, not mine, and I don’t appreciate people who threaten my brother and try to blow my head off.”
“It was a misunderstanding.”
“Yeah, I know, but I won’t be sorry when they move on. There’re a couple of ‘em with hair trigger tempers.”
Scott leaned forward. “Is it any wonder? They were running for their lives for two years, watching their children dying because they didn’t have enough food or the medicine to cure them.”
“That was their choice, Scott. It was only the men that were wanted by the law.”
“What would you have done in their place?” Scott challenged.
“Whatever I had to do to keep my family alive and safe.”
Scott looked away from his brother’s piercing stare, silently asking himself for the hundredth time what he would have done.
“You want to tell me what’s on your mind?” Johnny asked. “It sure ain’t like you to sit around brooding.”
“I just needed some time to think about everything that happened.”
“They’re not your responsibility.”
“Aren’t they? Even if amnesty is granted how will they start over?”
“Is that what’s really bothering you, or is it that girl you’re worried about?”
It was almost a relief to be able to admit it. “I made her trust me and then I broke that trust by not telling her I knew about the warrants. She’s like a wounded animal and won’t let anyone close enough to help her.”
“I think you’re wrong about that. I’ve seen the way she looks at you.”
“What if I hurt her again, Johnny?”
“You might, but you’ll hurt her more if you don’t try. Treat her gentle and don’t make any promises you can’t keep.”
Scott summoned up a weak smile. “When did you become such an expert on women, Brother?”
“Years of practice.” Johnny smothered a yawn before standing up. “You’ll figure out the right thing to do. I’ll see you in the morning.”
Scott watched his brother leave the room before getting to his feet and turning out the lamp.