Part 1 can be found here.
Part 2 can be found here.
Part 3 can be found here.
Part 4 can be found here.
Part 5 can be found here.
Part 6 can be found here.
Part 7 can be found here.
Part 8 can be found here.
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Caleb settled at the head of the table and looked at Lana, who was seated at the other end. He smiled, letting his glance take in each person that sat there with him. Emily sat to Lana’s left, with tiny Julia between Emily and Caleb. To Caleb’s left sat little Toby, and Beth sat between Toby and Lana.
He let his smile linger on Beth, to once again reassure her of her place in the family. She smiled shyly back at him, before bowing her head.
As each one closed their eyes, Caleb, too, bowed his head.
“Heavenly Father, we come to You again to thank You for your provisions and care. You have blessed this family so far above what we deserve, bringing us together again, and bringing Beth into our lives to love as our own. We thank You for the love that we have here in this house, for the opportunity to share that love with one that had her own family taken away, even if it is for a short time. We ask that You continue to watch over us and to work Your Perfect will in our lives. We thank You Father for this meal that we are about to eat and ask that You strengthen us with it. We ask these things in Jesus’ name. Amen.”
Caleb picked up the platter of beef and began to fork some onto Julia’s plate just as a loud pounding came from the other side of the door. Lana’s startled, fearful gaze swung from the door to Caleb and back, bringing Caleb to his feet.
He cautiously leaned over to look out the front window, then sighed with relief. Pulling the door open, he gestured to the man standing there to come inside.
“Sherriff, come in.”
Tom looked past him to Lana and the children and shook his head.
“I think it best if we talked outside.”
The troubled look in the lawman’s eyes curled a tight ball of dread into Caleb’s stomach. He glanced at Lana and then followed Tom outside where Jake sat alertly on his horse, surrounded by a group of men, each on horseback and heavily armed.
Jesse was hurrying across the yard, shotgun in hand, followed by Nick and Josh, hands that Caleb had hired recently. The three men stepped up onto the porch and stood silently, waiting, as Tom moved to the edge of the porch and talked swiftly and quietly to the men waiting for instruction. As a man, they rode into the barn and then emerged on foot a few seconds later to furtively skirt the ranch, disappearing into hiding places.
“What is it Tom?”
Before the Sherriff could answer, Lana pulled the door open and stepped outside.
“What is it? What has happened?”
“Ma’am, I’m afraid we have a serious problem.”
Lana moved to stand close to Caleb, gripping his arm in her fingers.
“Well, we have been doing our best to piece together what was happening while you were being held captive. We have found out that Roy’s enlistment in the Army ended shortly after the war back east ended.”
“But he went out on patrols, he told me … .”
“Lana, all those times that he left you, he did not go out on Army patrols. We have found out that he belonged to an outlaw gang, and those times when he left you prisoner in your own home were the times when he joined up with the gang, and terrorized families all over the territory.
“They murdered numerous families, kidnapped women and children to sell as slaves. I believe that they kept these people captive with the same threats as Roy used to keep you from running away. We have managed to track down some of their hideouts and rescued some of those captives, but believe that there are more that we haven’t been able to find yet.”
When he paused, Lana felt the dread and terror come rushing back.
“You said we have a problem. What has happened?”
Tom reached up and lifted his hat from his head to run his fingers through his jet-black hair. He looked at Caleb with a frown that had a sob rising in Lana’s throat.
“While he was in our jail, he kept spouting all these threats against you and Caleb, and when he overheard our conversation about our raids on those hideouts, Jake and I were included in the threats of vengeance.” He breathed in, and blew the breath out on a troubled sigh. “Caleb, I’m afraid the gang broke him out of jail early this morning, just before dawn.” He glanced quickly at Lana, then back to Caleb. “We believe they headed north at first, but then they were spotted headed in this direction.”
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Part 10 can be found here.
Part 11 can be found here.
Part 12 can be found here.
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© Drusilla Mott and https://drusillamott.wordpress.com, 2012