Saturday, May 06, 2006

Kin to the Saboteur - Ch. 3

Adam had been in Miskito for a full week now and he’d found no loopholes anywhere in the legalities of the Ackerman property. Everything had been properly filed, signed and dated in every county they owned land in. All deadlines had been met and all taxes had been paid.

When Adam began to subtly interview the local residents through the guise of causal conversation at the Cornhusker Eatery, a local restaurant he frequented, he learned the reason why everything was so airtight with the Ackerman property holdings.

It seems that Halona’s deceased father was a lawyer before he decided to come out west. Gordon Ackerman was a very shrewd lawyer who tried, but couldn’t find fulfillment and satisfaction in anything he did on the east coast and thus looked for those things on the frontier.

Gordon found what he was looking for when he responded to the Homestead Act of 1862. With this act, Congress offered 160 acres of land to any individual, who would pay a ten dollar registration fee, live on the land for five years, cultivate and improve it.

According to the hoary-haired owner of the Cornhusker Eatery, the esteemed Mr. Ackerman did all of that and more, turning those 160 acres into nearly 8,000 by 1883 and opening up several businesses in the process. But the most interesting thing of all Adam heard was the fact that Gordon had been neither greedy nor stingy during his lifetime. In fact, the man, who had a special fondness for Chinese food, was reputed to have actually fed half the town during the harsh winter of 1880-81 from his personal corn and wheat stores alone. No wonder so many people thought so well of him. It was said that Mr. Ackerman had the largest funeral in the history of Miskito. The second largest had been that of his sister-in-law, Fran.

The only negative thing that was said about Gordon Ackerman pertained to his choice in women. Within a year of his relocation, Gordon had fallen in love with and married a brown-skinned Indian woman with Pawnee and Omaha blood ties. They were married by an Indian chief who validated their union in the eyes of God, despite any miscegenation laws of the land.

Incidentally, the shrewd lawyer also had his marriage to the Indian woman legalized in Nebraska on a technically that cited the fact that his wife, although brown, was not Negro or mulatto since those were the primary prohibitions to mixed marriages at that time. The one-eighth or more Negro, Japanese or Chinese marriage restrictions came a few years later.

Unfortunately, three years later, Gordon’s Indian wife died soon after bringing their second child into the world. Of equal misfortune is the fact that the infant son Kachine Ackerman delivered died a month later due to sickness. As a result, a grief-stricken Gordon was left to raise their surviving child alone.

According to that same elderly source, Gordon Ackerman’s daughter was gorgeous to look upon, but she had two things working against her. She was deemed un-marriageable to the eligible white men in their town due to her questionable heritage and the fact that she sported her Indian side like a badge of honor regardless of what others thought. Halona Ackerman was deemed un-marriageable to the other men in Miskito due to the fact that she didn’t act like a lady at all. She even wore men’s trousers most of the time and could arm wrestle like a champ.

Adam fought not to laugh right out of his chair at the thought of an arm wrestling woman in men’s clothes. He was highly intrigued by Miss Ackerman for sure now and soon discovered a new way to obtain the grazing land his father needed. Adam would seduce Halona. No doubt a soon-to-be old maid like her had to be lonely and just ripe for the taking.

As for that Nebraska law that did not recognize mixed marriages, the confirmed bachelor wasn’t concerned about that in the least. Adam didn’t intend to marry Miss Ackerman anyway. Or any other woman for that matter.

And as for his conscience getting in the way of him carrying out such a devious plan, Adam had numbed out that little pesky part of himself years ago. How else could he have slept so soundly during and after successfully defending a known adulterer in New York? That politician’s wife was left with next to nothing to live off of after that costly divorce, while Adam’s pockets had been lined with the fat bonus he’d gotten from the high profile case.

~~<<>>~~

“I’m surprised to see you here,” Sheriff Hezekiah Birch said, directing his statement towards the only other adult in the lobby area of the sheriff’s office.

Each summer the competent sheriff of Miskito held a seven-day summer program for those interested in learning how to shoot. Usually his students were boys around age nine or ten who’d been given permission by their parents to participate. Any older than that and a boy was expected to assist his family with more than just household chores and could not be spared for even seven days during the summer. In fact, it was common for boys of twelve to be able to drive two or four horse teams, ride almost any kind of horse with or without a saddle, handle any kind of boat, shoot, hunt, trap, fish, and snowshoe. They had to know all of those things for their very survival on the frontier.

“Yes, I’m a bit surprised, too,” Adam replied as he looked around at the nine small boys in his presence. “I wasn’t aware that there was an age requirement for your summer program.” The flyer that he’d seen posted in the Cornhusker Eatery hadn’t specified an age requirement. As a person with excellent proof-reading skills, Adam would have surely seen that little tidbit.

“There ain’t, but most men your age already know how to shoot.” Sheriff Birch chuckled in his usual good-naturedly way. A few of the young boys laughed as well. They’d never met a grown man that couldn’t shoot.

Adam smiled and took his ribbing like a man. “Oh, I know how to shoot, but I haven’t had much practice in awhile. I thought I’d get some here. Where I’m from, everyday citizens don’t usually walk around with guns.” Adam refused to disclose that the last time he’d used a firearm was when he was in boarding school and enrolled in a military training course.

“Where exactly are you from?” Sheriff Birch asked. He liked to know the basics of all new people in his jurisdiction in case they turned out to be trouble later. The nine boys around them grew quiet with interest. They were just as curious about the red-haired stranger.

“New York City,” Adam replied, keeping his smile fixed in place as the causal conversation turned into some type of covert interrogation. Hopefully, Sheriff Birch wouldn’t try to dig too deep into Adam’s personal life. Otherwise, he’d find more than he bargained for.

Sheriff Birch kept his easy smile and stuck out his hand. “Welcome to Miskito, New York City,” he said, giving Adam a new nickname just that fast.

“Thanks, sheriff. So am I in?” Adam asked, careful not to lose eye contact with the perceptive man as he shook his hand and released it. He didn’t want to appear weak or shady. And the sweat littering Adam’s forehead could easily be taken as a reaction to the steamy weather today. Especially since some of the youngsters had sweat on their brows as well.

After giving Adam a brief once-over and finding nothing particularly sinister about him on the surface, Sheriff Birch nodded his consent. “I reckon so. A grown man ain’t squat out west without proper know-how of a weapon. Whatcha packing there, New York City? A Colt six-shooter, Winchester repeater, or a single-shot Springfield?”

Adam’s smile suddenly became genuine again. He couldn’t help but like the salt and pepper-haired man with the thick whiskers. “A Colt six-shooter to begin with,” he replied, holding up his weapon. “I can try my luck with the Winchester and Springfield later.”

“Good choice,” Sheriff Birch said with a nod of approval this time. Then he looked down and focused his attention on the other program participants in the two windowed room. “Y’all boys ready?” When he received loud cheers in response, Hezekiah added, “Well, let’s get going then.”

By the end of the seven days, Adam had once again become the sharp shooter that he used to be. He’d also laid the foundation for a most unlikely friendship with the sheriff of Miskito. In fact, Hezekiah Birch seemed poised to become that father figure that Adam had always secretly longed for. He’d already been invited on a fishing trip with the personable lawman.

~~<<>>~~

Adam had just finished eating a light lunch in his room when he heard commotion out on the street in front of the hotel. There was the sound of hooves hitting gravel at full speed. Loud shouting could also be heard on that hot first Saturday in June.

Adam rushed to the window; pulled back one of the thick maroon tapestries blocking his view, and looked out. What he saw next not only amazed him, but also dashed his hopes of ever seducing Halona Ackerman. In fact, Adam actually felt repelled by what he saw.

Driving a two-horse, royal-blue trimmed carriage was Miss Ackerman. She was dirty and dusty-looking in a pair of copper riveted, denim, waist overalls. Her face was smeared with grime and the straw hat on her head was barely hanging on as she shouted at the top of her lungs for the local doctor.

One of Halona’s farm hands had met with an accident and needed immediate care. This was the fifth accident on her farm this year and people in town were starting to think that perhaps her property was cursed, despite its prosperity. That’s why hardly anyone sought work there anymore, even though Miss Ackerman paid generous wages.

“Doc Binder!” Halona shouted again as she stopped her horses and jumped down from the carriage before the wheels even stopped spinning good.

“I’m here,” Doc Binder said as he quickly appeared on the wooden sidewalk in front of his office. “There hasn’t been another accident, has there?” he asked, peering through his large specks at the carriage. As soon as he saw the bloody legs of someone dangling from the rear of the expensive wagon, he already had the answer to his question.

“Yeah, its Sonny this time,” Halona replied, already going towards the injured young man in the back.

Doc Binder followed her. “Halona, let me get one of the men to help me tote Sonny inside.” If only his son Tanner was home from medical school, then maintaining the Binder Medical Clinic & Drug Store and dealing with situations like this would be easier all the way around.

Halona’s head snapped around and her ebony eyes blazed hotly. “No man helped me put him in the carriage.”

Deciding not to argue with the strong-willed woman that not only financed his clinic and adjoining drug store, but also most of the other important places in town, Doc Binder quickly went to assist Halona himself. Although he tried to bear most of the weight of the injured man, the doctor soon saw that Halona was fully capable of holding her own. The muscles in her arms were clearly defined from working side by side with her employees in the fields and they showed no signs of strain.

Back upstairs in the hotel across the street, Adam Thorpe stepped away from the window with a frown. There is no way I can romance ‘that’, he mused. He was definitely going to have to rethink his plans of seduction now. After all, Adam appreciated beauty just like the next man. Even now the memory of Halona so dirty and grimy and splattered with blood made him scrunch up his nose in distaste.

It was unfortunate that Adam couldn’t see how beautiful Halona was on the inside in spite of what he’d just witnessed on the outside. After all, only a person with a beautiful spirit would allow her brand new, custom-made carriage to be used to transport a bloody employee. Sonny’s blood might not ever come out of the white and royal-blue striped cushion of Halona’s carriage bed and she could care less. Another cushion could always be bought, yet the same couldn’t be said for Sonny’s life.

~~<<>>~~

The next day, Adam went to the livery and picked up the horse that he’d paid a deposit for and reserved on Saturday evening since most Miskito businesses were closed on Sundays. He was going for an early morning ride in the countryside. He had much to think about on that cloudless morning. Both plans to obtain the necessary grazing land for the O’Donnell Cattlemen Association had fallen through. Adam needed to know his next course of action before contacting his father in the bi-weekly update they agreed upon via mail.

Grateful for the riding lessons he’d had at that expensive boarding school his father enrolled him in, Adam had no problem adjusting to the large brown speckled animal beneath him. In no time, man and beast were trotting, cantering, and even galloping on occasion. It was as if he and Cimarron had known each other forever. As a result, Adam decided that when they got back to town, he would make a bid for the horse and buy him outright.

On his way back into town, Adam followed a trail that was adjacent to the west side of the Ackerman property. Soon he came upon a mid-sized white church with a tall steeple on top. There were finely dressed people exiting the building which meant that it was now almost noon since worship services usually let out at that time.

Although Adam had read that many Roman Catholics were in the area, the sign above the door to this particular church declared it to be one of the protestant denominations. Therefore, he suspected that their worships services were a lot less informal in nature, although no less proficient. Adam’s mother had gone to a protestant church in her latter years and they’d believed in the divine inspiration of every word in the Bible, the Genesis version of Creation, the virgin birth and resurrection of Jesus the Christ. Incidentally, Adam hadn’t been back to church since his mother passed.

Just then, Adam spotted two familiar horses. One was all-black and the other was all-white. These were the same black and white horses that had driven Halona Ackerman into town yesterday. They were attached to the same royal-blue trimmed carriage from yesterday as well.

Suddenly Adam saw another familiar sight. Or rather he saw an unfamiliar sight, because Miss Ackerman certainly didn’t look like this yesterday.

Whoa, Adam mused appreciatively.

Today, Halona had on a powder-blue dress with a high neck and flaring sleeves that complimented her slender hips, narrow waist and full bust immensely. Instead of the customary bonnet worn by the other women around her, Halona’s long, extra thick, straight tresses were plaited in traditional Native American style and were adorned with two tantalizing blue ribbons near the ends. Now this was a woman Adam could seduce.

However, Adam didn’t just want to seduce Halona now by giving her his undivided attention, an abundance of well-timed compliments, and a few stolen kisses in order to get what he wanted. Now he wanted to make full love to her in the most carnal of ways. In fact, Adam found himself yearning to pull at the ends of those blue ribbons until they were completely unraveled and lying at the feet of Halona’s bare frame. A frame that had already been relieved of its powder-blue dress in his mind.

Suddenly Adam averted his eyes. Although he didn’t feel a lick of shame for lusting on church property, the fear and embarrassment of being caught staring is what made him change his behavior. Back to plan ‘B’, Adam mused as he politely tipped his black Stetson to the churchgoers before prompting his horse to go into a trot back to town.

Let’s see now. With another hand out of commission, she should be needing more help very soon, Adam thought, recalling why Halona had been in town yesterday afternoon.

He also recalled reading about Nebraska’s plowing and planting season which took place in May and June, after the local children were out of school. In July, crews of men and horses traveled from farm to farm with a big threshing machine for the crops that had been planted in the fall. In Miss Ackerman’s case, she had her own threshing machine and didn’t have to wait until July.

By the end of the summer, she should be willing clay in my hands, the confident auburn-haired man mused with determination. And if all goes well, we both might end up having the time of our lives this summer.

© 2006 Suprina Frazier

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