99. No Options

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Henry stumbled into his house, one hand clutching his tender stomach.

Memories flashing in his head ...

After the beating, Henry had teetered under the oak tree, swinging from a rope rising from his shackled wrists up to the big branch above. He felt the sting of welts all over his body. Felt the blood, oozing from the gashes in his chest and back.

Henry's eyes were shut when he heard a slow clap. Then more hands joined in. Before he knew it, every Vigilante began to clap and shout, celebrating Henry's suffering like a grand slam home run.

As soon as the applause died down, Hans and Karl untied the rope from the tractor and let Henry collapse to the ground onto his back

Edward removed a key from his pocket and unfastened the shackles.

Then Clayton kneeled next to Henry and grabbed his jaw. "Henry Louis, you got exactly what you deserved."

Henry wanted to clock Clayton in the head, but he couldn't even make a fist, his body still quivering in pain.

A few minutes later, the Vigilantes disappeared quietly into the night.

Now, Henry stood in his living room, a little wobbly on his feet. He tried to swallow, but his throat felt like raw cotton.

Sarah was sitting on the couch, reading a Life Magazine. She looked up from the page and shrieked.

"Oh God! Oh God, Henry! What happened? You're hurt! Who did this to you?!"

Sarah rushed over and began looking Henry over. She brought her trembling hands up, as if to touch him. But then seemed to think better of it and just kept her fingers hovering near the bloody splotches on his white shirt.

"It's nothing," Henry said, wincing as he spoke.

"Henry! Who did this to you? Oh, we have to get you to the hospital, right now!"

"It was Clayton and his men," Henry said. He hated lying to Sarah, but he didn't want to tell her it was the Vigilantes. He didn't want to frighten her. No, he would protect her from the harsh truth. "They jumped me after work. All because me and Willy caught them vandalizing the black bunkhouses and warned them to stop. This is what happens when you try to stand up for what's right! There just isn't any use in even trying!"

"Henry, we have to call the police! Tell them what happened! Tell them what Clayton and those thugs did to you!"

"There's no point!" Henry cried. "The police won't do anything! It won't do any good! It's us against them, and they got the upper hand! Whites are the only ones with any power in this world. I just need to get used to it and stop trying to change things. All I ever do is make things worse and get myself into more trouble!"

"We can't just do nothing!" Sarah cried. "Just look at you! Just look at the state that you're in!"

"I'm fine. Nothing's broken. I'm just a little banged up."

"A little banged up?" Sarah said, disbelief in her eyes. "You're bleeding for God's sake. Henry, I'm calling the police right now!"

Sarah began making her way towards the phone, one hand on her baby bump.

"Don't you do that, Sarah! No one is going to believe a colored man over a bunch of whites. It's only going to make more problems."

"I'm calling them, Henry. Just sit yourself down and I'll bring some ice over, after I get off the phone."

"Well, I'm not going to be here when the police show up!"

"What?!"

Henry spun on his heel and left, slamming the front door behind him. He darted across the street, not really sure where he was headed.

"Henry! Come back! Please!"

By the time he heard Sarah calling out to him, Henry was almost halfway down the block.

And he had no plans to come back.


Author's Note

Henry is terribly lost right now. He feels like he has nowhere to turn to. Nobody to turn to. Not even Sarah. Perhaps, he'll find his way soon.

But wait! What's that?

In the next chapter, Frank returns?! Linda returns?! Peter plays a role?!

Could this be start of the turnaround Henry so desperately needs?

Or might there be more troubles ahead?

You'll find out soon!

Until then, take care.

Best Regards,

Tom


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