Casey’s Gunslinger, The Loflin Legacy # 2
by Catherine Wolffe
Copyright 2013 Catherine Wolffe | All Rights Reserved
Cover Design by Ally Thomas
“M a g g i e!” Charles Harrison’s voice reverberated off the walls and down the long hall of the Shooter Creek ranch house. The heavy Spanish oak door slammed against the jam in his wake. Striding in without invitation, he was a man with a quest. The old walls of the home echoed their sentiment. Words wrought more fire in his gut, so he stalked through the rooms silently searching for the housekeeper. A young Indian girl made the mistake of stepping into the hall to see who had intruded so rudely. When she saw the fury in his face, she retreated immediately, scurrying away with the other maids.
Soon, Jake Long, the elder foreman, pulled up on his horse outside. The dust flew as he slid from the animal’s back and made his way to the kitchen door. “What’s all the commotion? Tar-nation, you’d think something was burning, the way you stormed in here. I can hear you clear out to the barn.”
Charles waited a beat trying to regain some of his composure. He’d rode hard, not sparing the horse or his temper to get to the house and find the answers he needed. “Where is she? Where’s Maggie?” he snapped.
Jake stood, much as he always did, with one hip cocked sideways, both hands stuffed in his back pockets and a thin lined scowl on his weather beaten face. The foreman had been a part of Shooter Creek life from the start, signing on when Earl Loflin staked a claim to the first thousand acres of ranch land in thirty-two. His tall, slim body held an authority few could match. Men looked up to him, a station he’d earned through sweat and blood over the years. Despite the respect, Jake wore the responsibility with humility and the honest nature that had seen him through his sixty-two plus years. No cowpoke upstart crossed his authority without seeing the gate on his way out. No greased, slick thief got one over on Jake without reckoning. His status as the last word at Shooter Creek went without question. Now he stood in Maggie’s kitchen, the house keeper’s domain within the great house, with a pained look on his ruddy face.
“If you’re referring to Maggie, she ain't here. She went to town to see Casey.” His tired blue eyes mirrored the hurt and confusion in Charles’ face. Words could explain but not mend the damage done to the lives of the family that called Shooter Creek home. He took a step forward, hand out, palm up. “Charles, for what it’s worth, we thought it was the best thing we could do for Casey under the circumstances.”
A cold grief settled over his heart. In some inner chamber, Charles had prayed the truth was somehow skewed and when he confronted them, Maggie and Jake would clear up the misunderstanding. Letting out a huff, he ran a hand through his hair. “All these years, Jake. All these years…” His voice trailed off as he stared at the plank floor.
“I know, Charles. I know. You gotta understand, we did the best we could. Earl was beside himself over Laura’s death. He locked himself in the room with her for days on end after she died. It was a dark time for him. His mind was on shaky ground. We feared he’d gone over the edge – gone loco. When Maggie tried to bring Casey to him, he snarled at the child and shoved her back at Maggie. Earl didn't really want anything to do with the baby. He vowed he’d send us all packing if we didn't get rid of “the thing” as he called her.” Staring off into middle space, Jack shook his head. The woeful breath that escaped held years of sorrow compounded by secrecy.
“Did you try, I mean later when he came back to his senses? Did you try to explain?” The question, filled with the ache in his chest, sounded hollow to his ears. “He was her father, Jake.”