Tom had gone home to get some bar cookies or pound cake to bring back to the jail to offer to West with the coffee. Josephine’s latest batch of pound cake wasn’t due out of the oven for another fifteen minutes so Tom used the time to haul water in for Josephine, haul ashes out to dump into the privy, plane a cupboard door that wouldn’t close, and then just sit for a few minutes and admire his wife as she went about her chores.
“Is there anything new in town?” Josephine asked as she took her dry laundry down off the line in the yard. “Anything new on who was sneaking around the Gaskell’s last night?”
“We got a few ideas.” Tom hedged. “Pa’s sending out telegrams. You keeping that gun near you when you’re alone, ain’t you?”
“Yes, Tom. Right next to my rolling pin and my sad iron.”
“Good. I don’t fancy taking any chances.”
“Rachel wants to ask you for shooting lessons. She’s going to ask you tonight.”
“Tonight?” Tom asked.
“Tonight. We’re going over there tonight for supper.”
“I only told you three times this morning.” Josephine said, as she tucked a sheet under her chin to fold up.
“Oh! That ‘tonight’,” Tom said. “I thought you meant the other ‘tonight’.” He winked at her then stood up and gave her a kiss. “I’ll come back to get you. Don’t walk down by yourself, all right?”
Tom packed up some pound cake and walked back to the jail. They lived at the other end of town from the Gaskells, cattycorner beyond the jail.
He found his Pa at the jail, alone. He was sitting at the desk.
“Damn.” Tom heard his father curse as he walked into the jail. He heard him curse worse than he’d heard him curse in a long time. He was reading a telegram.
“What is it?”
“West.” His Pa said the name with the same tone as he used whenever Doctor Bill got his hands on a pistol and tried to shoot out the candles on the chandelier in the saloon.
“West what?” Tom asked.
“The fool’s heading to Temperance.”
“Temperance? When? What’re you talking about? I thought he was down at the Gaskell’s?”
“No, he rode out a few hours ago, going to Rigby trying to find a lead on his Pa. Now he sends this telegram he’s going to Temperance.” The Sheriff gestured with the telegram. “Guess he found a lead.”
“Yeah, guess so.”
Tom was torn between anger at West for going off on his own, concern for West’s safety, and wondering what lead West had gotten to go after his Pa.
“I gotta say, I don’t much like the idea of him out there on his own.” Tom said.
“Neither do I.” His father admitted. “Ain’t like he’s green, though. I’d say he’s got more experience on the trail than the both of us put together.”
“I still don’t like it.”
His father sighed.
“Not much going on in town. If something comes up, Sam’ll help me out. If Josie says you can go, I got no complaints.”
“Go where?” Tom asked.
“Temperance. You and me both know you’re just itching to ride hard to Temperance and see what trouble West might be stirring up for himself.”
“It’s not just West.” Tom said. “It ain’t like I think he can’t take care of himself. But – going after his Pa, he can’t be neutral about that. He can’t just take his Pa in like any other bounty. Either he’ll hate him so much, his rage’ll get the better of him. Or – no, I don’t think there is an ‘or’. West hates his Pa. I’m worried it’ll get the better of him.”
His Pa shook his head.
“Then I guess you better get going.”
(TOM AND JOSEPHINE ARGUE ABOUT HIM GOING AFTER WEST. WE FINALLY HEAR TOM’S TRUE FEELINGS OF FAMILY AND NOT HAVING CHILDREN. JOSEPHINE SAYS TOM IS EVERYTHING AND ENOUGH FOR HER. REITERATES WEST’S CHOSEN OCCUPATION AS KILLER. HER DESCRIPTION OF HIM IS CONTRADICTED BY THE NEXT SCENE/CHAPTER/ETC)