Him Who Made The Seven Stars
"Under your wheels, the hope of spring , mirage of loss, a
few more things, you left your sorrow dangling It hangs in
air like a school cheer, complex notes inside the chords on
every wall inflections carved, deep as lakes and dark as
stars. Remember we were the volunteers. Courts knew this and
nothing more; now it's my rights versus yours. ~ from "My
rights versus yours" By The New Pornographers
Bubba went weak in his knees and almost fell. Jack grabbed him and
helped him to a large overstuffed chair. The big cowboy was
devastated his childhood friend, his best buddy, with whom he went
to the Middle East and back again, could throw their close bond of
friendship out the window like it meant nothing to him, only to
appease or facilitate some scumbag like Clarence Womack in his
never ending effort to suck, finagle, or extort money from any
potential source all in the name of self-righteousness. Bubba
wondered if his own declaration of love for his buddy caused this
betrayal. He did a quick mental calculation and decided Earl must
have done the deed the day before Bubba laid his cards on the
table. After that, he had the watchers protecting his place, and
they never would have allowed Earl in his house, let alone the
barns. Bubba couldn't fathom Earl could be so callous or
insensitive to his feelings. He tried to convince himself there
was more to his friend's motives than envy, greed, selfishness, or
just plumb-dumb rock-headed stupidity, but the further Bubba
separated himself from Earl and Womack's influence, the less he
seemed to understand about them. The draw of the light from the
Daniels family was too great, an overwhelming temptation, to ever
return to the darkness of self-doubt and loathing he lived with
for so long. Was Earl the caboose on the heavy train he pulled up
a steep grade all those years?
"You all right, Bubba?" Jack asked quietly.
"No, I ain't all right. I feel like I just done got both my legs
shot out from under me. I'm hurt, and I'm angry," Bubba lamented.
"I'd say that's pretty normal under the circumstances," Jack said.
It took Bubba a few minutes to recover. "I'm half a mind to go
over to the Hickson ranch, march into the bunkhouse, and tell Earl
I forgot a couple of things. I'll make a thorough search, find my
keys, his camera, and tell him I'll let him have his camera back
when he gets the photos back from Womack," Bubba said in anger.
"No, that would be the worst thing you could do. Promise me you
won't go over there in a fit of hurt and rage and do something
you'll be sorry for later. If, for no other reason, for your Aunt
Helen and me, Bubba; also, think about our link with the Daniels'
family. You're now sitting on Billy's board of financial advisers,
and they got your family money sit'n in their safe. In a way, when
they accepted the responsibility for us, we done the same for
them. Whatever we do or say, whatever actions we take reflect on
them as well as us. Our link to them is important. You can't deny
it, Bubba. I certainly don't. I take what they done for us
seriously. I'm proud to be a part of their family, and I know damn
well you are, too. Don't do nothing to fuck it up. Besides, we all
love you, big Brother, and as family, we'll see you through this.
"Just let cooler heads prevail for the moment, and let us help
guide you through it. I did some research and read through that
folder of legal papers you brought me the first time you come to
my office. Them barns is under federal protection should your late
uncle, or now you, deem it necessary to ask their help in case of
threat or emergency. One call to the nearest military base and
there would be boots-on-the-ground out to your place until the
problem is resolved. The mere entry into those barns without your
permission is breaking federal laws, to say nothing about taking
covert photos of Brad's inventions and passing them on to the
likes of Womack, no matter his intentions," Jack said.
"Jesus! I's more afraid of the Feds than I am of Earl or Womack,"
"And with our shabby excuse for government we got today, you have
every reason to be, but that ain't the point, Bubba. We all fear
them under our current circumstances. Earl, and certainly Womack,
don't want to get involved with the Feds. We'll use the threat as
a leverage a heavy-handed threat, to get what we want," Jack
"Then we don't have to get the Feds involved?" Bubba asked.
"No, not at all. Just consider it an ace-in-the-hole like we got
a bigger gun than they do. We can share it with the sheriff and
Judge LaFleur to show we have reason to suspect Earl Hickson for
the burglary of your house and taking pictures of your personal
property left to you by your uncle. It just raises the importance
a little from a common burglary and theft of property to a federal
offense. These pictures, taken illegally, sent to me by Womack's
lawyers, would stand as proof in any court they are part of a
conspiracy to receive stolen goods. We can sue the law firm of
Dewey, Cheetum, and Howe, as well as Womack. We won't have no
problem getting a search warrant. We deliver it to Will Tate, and
follow him and his deputies out to the Hickson place. If your
stuff is there, the sheriff will find it, and we can take it from
there," Jack said. "In the meantime, I'm hungry, and you promised
to buy me lunch. We can hash it out over a good meal and stop by
the sheriff's station to talk with Will. He might have some ideas.
After all, we's part of a bigger family now," Jack added.
"Yeah, let's go. I'm feeling kinda empty myself. You promise to
protect me from them monster geese out there?" Bubba asked.
"How fast can you run, Brother?" Jack asked and laughed.
"I'm fast enough, but I'm big and clumsy. One trip and I'm
goose-food," Bubba lamented.
He got Jack laughing. "Don't worry they mind me most of the
time," he added under his breath.
"I heard that!" Bubba exclaimed and grinned.
The men left the house, but they no sooner got to the bottom of
the steps when Satan and Matilda came around a corner and spied
Bubba. They lowered their heads, spread their wings, hissed like
the devil himself, and went into attack mode. Jack hollered at
them to knock it off. Bubba was a guest, and they better get use
to him or they could pack their bags and fly South for the winter.
They stopped their bombing run but honked and hissed as they
turned and walked away grumbling to each other like a retreating
"It'll take them a while," Jack said.
"I hope they have babies. I want me a pair just like 'um," Bubba
said and laughed nervously.
* * * * * * *
Pete Breedlove looked into his bathroom mirror at his long-weekend
growth of facial hair, and had to admit to himself, he looked
scraggy. It was his habit not to shave from Friday through Monday
morning, but he was a man who had a five o'clock shadow at one
o'clock every day. With one extra day, he decided he was just
plumb dirty and mean looking. He imagined himself as a bad-ass
gunfighter from the turn of the previous century a mean,
ugly-faced gunfighter with a heart of gold who always fought on
the side of the little man or a widow-woman with three young kids
who was about to be thrown off their homestead by an evil land
baron who wanted to buy up all the water rights to starve them
Pete noticed his beard and mustache was darker than it was in
years, and it seemed to cover his more youthful looks from Billy
and his family's physical enhancement. He decided not to shave.
Maybe no one would notice. He would also make sure he pulled his
big cowboy hat down tight so they wouldn't notice the silver
streaks in his hair were gone. He got himself cleaned up and
thought about one of his workmates, Leon Tollefson, who would come
to work every day looking like he stepped out of a Western
catalog, boots cleaned, clean Wranglers, and a nice Western shirt.
By the end of the day, he would be more dirty than the rest of the
When Leon came to work, it was to work, and he worked strong and
steady all day. He pulled his weight and never expected anyone to
do his job for him. Several of the other cowboys talked about him
behind his back and made fun of his work ethic. Pete never did. In
fact he found Leon an inspiration and worked just as hard to keep
up with him. Pete and Leon became the two lead cowboys on the lot.
Leon became Pete's inspiration to clean up his act and make sure
he protected his job. Pete noticed Leon never missed a day of work
unless he made arrangements ahead of time to take his dad to the
Pete liked and admired Leon a lot. He thought Leon was the epitome
of what a cowboy should be from his square-jawed, hyper-masculine
good looks, a flawless physique, to his strong, unflappable, stoic
cowboy attitude. Leon was about six years older than Pete's boy
Oatie and grew up in the small ranching community. He lived on a
ranch with his dad near the small town of Kooksville, Texas. He
attended Mason county schools, was a football hero of the small
school's team, and one of Oatie Breedlove's idols. Leon inspired
Oatie to play football and become the fine athlete he was.
Leon left home the day he graduated high school to serve in the
Army in the Middle East. When he returned, he was a broken man and
tried to make a go of being a rodeo cowboy as a bull rider and
bulldogger, but he just wasn't good enough to make the big money.
He lived a pretty rough life until he met an older cowboy who
became a mentor for Leon. They left the rodeo behind and were
hired as regular cowhands for one of the largest ranches in the
country outside of Alpine, Texas. Leon was born to be a cowboy,
and with his saddle buddy by his side, whom he loved more than
life itself, he found his place in the sun. For a little under a
decade, Leon lived his personal bliss, until his buddy was killed
in a freak range accident.
After Leon lost his buddy, he wasn't the same. He worked for the
outfit another year until his mother died, and Leon returned home
for her funeral. His dad was getting up in years. The old man
couldn't run their ranch anymore, and the place was going to ruin.
His dad, Carl, begged Leon to come home, and he would turn the
ranch over to him. Leon returned to Alpine, gave his straw-boss a
two week notice so he could find another hand to replace him,
packed his gear, and returned home. His dad got worse and more
dependent on his boy. Leon couldn't work the ranch and take care
of his old man, too. When the job came available at the feed lot,
he jumped at the chance to have a steady income coming in to take
care of him and his dad's basic needs. With his dad's social
security, a small veteran's pension, and Leon's pay, they were
barely making ends meet.
Pete knew bits and pieces of Leon's background from talk around
the town, but he never got close enough to the big cowboy to
discuss it personally. The other cowboys were not so charitable,
and without any solid confirmation claimed Leon was a cowboy's
cowboy like Pete's boy Oatie. Pete didn't know whether it was true
or not. He really didn't give a shit. He learned his lesson the
hard way, and refused to make the same mistake with Leon he did
with Oatie. Pete lost all interest in reveal or anything to do
with faith in myths. He went back to the cowboy way and decided he
would live the rest of his life that way. Leon was all man as far
as Pete was concerned, and if he had a hitch in his get-along or
put the giddy in giddy-up, it didn't bother him in the least.
Leon would walk to his truck everyday for lunch, let his tailgate
down, raise the back of his camper shell, and eat his lunch he
prepared and brought in a large cooler. Not often, but once in a
while, Pete would ask if he could join Leon to eat lunch together.
Leon never said 'no' and seemed to enjoy Pete's company. Their
conversations were usually casual without much talk about their
personal lives. Leon was not unaware of Pete's track record with
his family and avoided bringing up the subject. He knew the loss
of his two sons was heartbreaking for Pete.
Nobody paid much attention to Pete that morning. One of the men, a
big loudmouthed cowboy named 'Sweed,' asked him if he was on a
diet; he looked like he lost weight. Pete said he wasn't on no
diet, but he gave up drinking and was trying to eat healthier. He
noticed he was losing his beer gut. Pete no sooner got the words
out when he caught Leon looking at him and studying him. Pete
watched a wry smile cross the big cowboy's face, and he knew in an
instant, Leon knew something. When noon came and the straw-boss
called for the men to break for lunch, Pete asked Leon if he might
join him on his tailgate.
"Sure, Mr. Breedlove, glad to have your company," Leon replied.
They walked over to Leon's truck, and Pete brought his lunch pail
with his sandwich and coffee. They sat and ate for a few minutes.
Pete could see Leon looking at him occasionally and smiling to
himself. Finally Pete caught him and looked him in the eye,
"What?" Pete asked and grinned.
Leon broke up laughing, and he rarely laughed. "Them other men
knew some'um was different about you, but they didn't look beyond
the surface. You look twenty years younger than you did last week.
Your hair is one solid color, and it ain't been dyed. Your skin
ain't pocked marked from acne scars, the mole is gone from behind
your right ear, and them crow's feet are gone from your eyes.
Hell, you look five years younger than me," Leon allowed quietly.
"I don't know. I just woke up like 'at this morning," Pete said
"Bullshit! You's either an alien in Pete Breedlove's body, or you
been mess'n around over to the Daniels' ranch," Leon said firmly.
"What do you know about the Daniels' ranch, Leon?" Pete asked.
"Rumors, personal observations, and what my two watchers tell me
what look out for my dad while I'm working. They make sure he
takes his meds, eats his lunch, and don't let him wander off the
property. I feed them and several daddy long-legs. One Saturday
afternoon, I ran naked with my biggest watcher and some of the
daddy long-legs. We followed the river down to the shores of the
Daniels' place. We sat on the limestone banks while we watched and
listened to some of the best dang music I done ever heard ever'
thing from highbrow classical to down-home country. I seen old
Elmer Breedlove, old Vox Humana, and old Buster Tate dancing a
cowboy jig together like they's teenagers. Them men had one foot
in the grave less than a month ago. Now you come to work try'n to
disguise your appearance by not shaving. You don't never come to
work looking so grizzly. Hell, Pete, I ain't shit'n ya' none, you
look five years younger than me. I ain't no rocket scientist, but
I ain't no fool neither," Leon declared. Pete chuckled to himself,
lowered his head, and blushed. "I'll bet you ain't blushed like
that in years, neither," Leon nailed Pete to the barn door with
his final barb and laughed. He got Pete laughing with him.
"I can't say nothing, Leon, except you certainly ain't no fool. I
can tell you this much, my family done gimme' a second chance, and
I spent a wonderful weekend with ma' dad, my future step-dad, Vox
Humana, my boy and his husband-to-be, Jethro Quince, over to the
Daniels' ranch and I got you to thank for it, Cowboy," Pete said
"Me? Why me, Mr. Breedlove?" Leon asked surprised.
"You and me come to work here within weeks of each other. You was
here two weeks 'afore me. I began to watch you and your work
ethic. I started to pattern myself after you. I give up drinking
so's I could feel good and fresh ever' day for work. Being older,
I had to or I knew I wouldn't be able to keep up with you, and I
might lose my job. I needed this job. It was my last chance to
turn myself around. We's going on our fifth year working together
the first of June, and I just thought you should know how much I
appreciate you as a cowboy and a friend," Pete said.
Leon sat for a minute, pulled his clean bandanna from his hip
pocket, and wiped his eyes. "That's about the best dang thing any
man's ever told me except the time my partner told me he loved
me," Leon said and wiped away a couple more tears.
"Was he your first, Son?" Pete asked.
"He was my only, Mr. Breedlove," Leon replied and shed a few more
tears. "I thought you's dead-set against cowboy love, sir," Leon
"When I's a younger man I weren't agin it. I did what I wanted,
but I believed in the cowboy way. I believed you should never
judge a man until you walk a mile in his boots. Then I got married
to a harridan disguised as a woman who was a 'true believer' what
bought into all that myth and superstition
God-loves-us-and-Jesus-is-my-running-buddy garbage. To keep peace
in the family, I found myself getting caught up in it like a
mindless cluster-fuck, knowing full-well I was going against my
deepest internal feelings about sex and our place on this planet
as a greater part of the universe. When I tuned my back on my boy,
it liked ta' done tore my guts out. I knew what I's doing werent'
right, but I done it anyway. Hell, I done sowed my wild oats as a
young man, and I was condemning my son for the same damn things I
done. It was then I learn't first-hand what the word 'hypocrite'
meant. I ain't got me no excuse. I was emotionally lazy, and I
took the coward's way out.
"May them Ancients forgive me, it was just easier to reject my boy
than it was standing up to my Jesus-jump'n bible-thump'n wife and
making excuses for him. As I looked at the situation at the time,
to confront Janice with the truth, I had to admit my own personal
flaws or weaknesses. I just couldn't bring myself to admit it to
my homophobic, foam'n-at-the-mouth queer-hate'n spouse that her
husband was a mite less than a solid rock of masculine fortitude.
I was, after all, the son of the great bull of the hill country, a
well known paragon of unquestioned masculinity. Thankfully, my dad
was a much wiser man than me. Elmer took Oatie in as his own and
became the father to my boy I was always afraid to be. I never
knew until I divorced Janice, my old man was an all-round cowpoke,
and there was more to his nickname,'The bull of the hill country,'
than met the eye. Under Elmer's wing, Oatie flourished and
achieved great things.
"I never could figure out how my boy persevered and accomplished
all them things after we done what we did to him. The average man
would have caved, throw'd up his hands, tucked his tail between
his legs, and went off on his own to live his life. Then one day,
in conversation with my dad, it come to me: the big bull, my own
dad, was butt-fuck'n my boy and having him service his big cock to
keep Oatie stable, happy, and on-track. Elmer became Oatie's bull
and master, and he still is today. I guaran-damn-tee-ya' Oatie
don't take a shit unless he get's his bull's approval," Pete
declared and got a laugh out of Leon.
"I finally had it with Janice and her bullshit religion when she
caused me to lose my other son and my ranch I worked so hard to
keep. I lost it to my boy for unpaid vet bills she let accumulate
and never told me about. She handled all the money. I just thought
she was paying our bills. She was paying everybody but Oatie. She
thought since our boy had a hitch in his git-along and it was
against her religion, she didn't have to pay Oatie a penny. It was
her way of punishing Oatie for some'um he didn't have no choice
about. By refusing to pay his bills she was telling him he was
worthless. She gambled he wouldn't do nothing about it. She said
he owed her that much and more for giving birth to a pre-vert. She
told me Oatie should be grateful she even allowed him on our
property. Them were her exact words, Cowboy, I shit you not," Pete
said with remorse.
"Unfortunately for her, the law didn't share her narrow minded
view of life. She lost her gamble, and I lost ever' thing. I knew
Oatie wouldn't do nothing like 'at to me. We never talked about
it, but I was sure my boy still loved and respected me;
howsomever, I also knew how strong my pa could be, and he had
complete control over Oatie. I went to Elmer and begged
forgiveness. I asked him to give me some time to pay off my debt
to Oatie, but he turned his back on me like I done my boy. Today,
when I think back on it, I c'ain't say's I blame him none. He told
me Oatie begged him to give me time to pay it off, but my own
dear-old-dad put his big boot down and refused. Now, I look back,
I realize it was for the best. Elmer knew I'd probably dump
Janice, and he hated her with a passion. It's what I did. I
divorced her, and I ain't sorry I done it. After she ran my other
boy off, I come to see the light of truth, and trust me, Son, h'it
ain't in religion," Pete declared. The men sat quietly eating
their lunch for a while. "Does your dad know about yore' druthers,
Leon?" Pete asked quietly.
"I only brought my partner home with me one Christmas, but we
slept in separate rooms. Later, when I took time off from the
ranch to get myself together after he was killed, I went home for
a couple of weeks. While I was grieving for my mate, dad accused
me of being a mule what was a man's man, and I wouldn't never give
him no grand-kids. I didn't respond, because it hurt me so bad
not for what he said, but for his lack of compassion. I never said
a word to him, but my ma sure did. I just packed my bags, kissed
my mom goodbye, walked out the door, threw my shit in the back of
my truck, drove to the ranch, and went back to work. I never
contacted him again after that until he called the ranch to tell
me my ma was dying. Funny, though, after mom died, he didn't have
no problem asking his 'mule' to come home and help him take care
of the ranch. It didn't take me long to realize it weren't only to
take care of the ranch, but him as well. I think he knows he hurt
me pretty bad from his comment. It's never been the same between
us since. He's made a couple of clumsy attempts to make it up to
me, but we ain't never really talked about it," Leon said.
"How did you get to know them watchers and daddy long-legs, Son?"
"I fed them behind my dad's back since I's a young boy. My dad
said they's the reincarnated spirits of dead Indians what would
suck your soul out of your body and kill you. I believed him,
until one day I misjudged how far it was across the river and
tried to swim it. I got a cramp in my leg in deep water, and knew
I weren't gonna' make it. I started hollering for help and was
about to go under for the last time when a giant furry hand
grabbed me under my arm, pulled me up to his stinky chest, and
wouldn't let me go until he was sure I was safe. He held me to his
breast, squeezed out some milk, and ordered me to suck his teat. I
weren't about to argue with the the giant beast. Hell, he held my
head in one hand like it was a baseball. I sucked and he fed me
the most wonderful milk. I couldn't get enough, it relaxed me, and
made my cramps go away. I been drinking watcher milk ever' since.
My group of watchers go to the Daniels' ranch to get milked once't
a week, and they give them several kinds of fresh fruits as a
"From that day on, them big critters looked out for me and
protected me. I could go anywhere on our ranch and do anything I
pleased. I knew I was always being looked after and watched. When
I got lonely, I could go and be with them for a while. They
treated me like I was special to them. I got the love from them I
never got from my parents. When I returned to the ranch, I started
to feed and take care of them again. When I needed to take this
job, I was gonna' have to put my old man in that home in Brady,
but they come to me and volunteered to baby-sit him for me. They
ain't never let me down. I can always depend on my dad being fed
his lunch I make for him, they see to it he takes his meds, and
he's safe at home when I come in ever' e'nin," Leon said.
"Damnation! I'm sure learning a lot these days, Leon. Since I
decided not to be a dick-head and changed my attitudes, I got a
flood of new information come to me. I had no idea you knew about
watchers and daddy long-legs," Pete said.
"You's the first man I ever done told about my life with them huge
peaceful critters. Who would believe me but you?" Leon asked.
"You's right about that, Cowboy. Thanks for sharing with me, Son,"
"You gonna' share wiff' me how-come you's twenty years younger,
Mr. Breedlove?" Leon asked.
"Can I ask my dad, the bull, about it first, Son?" Pete asked.
"Sure. I understand. No problem. I would expect you to, 'cause
it's the cowboy way. It's the right thing to do," Leon said.
The cowboys finished lunch, went back to work, and worked the rest
of the day without a word about their conversation. The work day
sailed by for Pete because he and Leon established a beach-head
which created a strong bond of friendship between them. They knew
something the other men didn't, and their lives were fuller for
sharing themselves with each other.
The next morning the men were having coffee. Pete and Leon were by
themselves, and Pete spoke quietly, "Lunch today? Yore' tailgate?"
"Sure, glad to have you join me. Brought along some extra
watcher's milk for you," Pete replied and smiled.
"The bull of the hill country contacted Master Billy, and he done
gimme' permission to answer your questions as best I can, Son,"
Pete said and smiled.
"I'll look forward to it, Mr. Breedlove," Leon said.
"Since I look younger than you, do you think you could drop the
'Mr. Breedlove' and call me 'Pete,' Son?" Pete asked quietly and
"As long as you don't stop calling me 'son,' Pete," Leon replied.
"It's a deal, Son!" Pete exclaimed, and they shook on it.
At lunch that day, Pete told Leon everything he witnessed from his
family growing wings like angels and being able to do miraculous
things for others, to the yearly 'close-caldron'
smack-down of a blue giant and his mate, a giant green Ork. Leon
was stunned and amazed, but he never accused Pete of lying or
exaggerating. He never spoke of becoming a part of the Daniels'
experience, but Pete knew the big cowboy never would. He was a
true man of the West and believed in the cowboy way. He wasn't one
to ask for more than he had. Pete wasn't worried about it. He
figured correctly, if a man as good-hearted as Leon seemed to be,
who lived in harmony with and provided for a couple of watchers
and a few daddy long-legs to look after his dad, it was only a
matter of time before Leon came to Billy Daniels' attention. If
Elmer told Billy why Pete wanted to tell his work buddy about his
weekend, he reckoned Billy probably already knew. Elmer knew the
Tollefson family and admired young Leon for years.
* * * * * * *
Jack and Bubba arrived at the Willow Creek Restaurant just a
little before noon and saw Will Tate pull up in his patrol car.
"You feel like buying the sheriff lunch, Cowboy?" Jack asked.
"Hell, yes, let's ask him," Bubba replied.
They invited Will to join them, and the men sat down at a table
way in the back of the huge barn-like building. The waitress came
and took their orders, and they began to talk. They told Will
everything. Will didn't seem too surprised. "I done figured it was
Earl Hickson what tore up your house. The tracks were too fresh
not to be his. When you look at a lot of tire tracks you get to
know old ones from fresh. Do you think he took anything from them
barns?" Will asked.
"There was one rifle, a 30-06 missing from my uncle's glass
cabinet in the barn," Bubba replied, "Earl always wanted a 30-06
but never could afford one," he added.
"Do you have the serial number for the gun?" Will asked.
"I'm sure I do some'ers, but Uncle Brad had brass butt-plates
installed on every gun, what has his name, address, and social
security number engraved on the underside of the plate. All you
gotta' do is take a penknife, remove the two small brads, and look
underneath," Bubba said.
"Good to know. You don't need to get a search warrant from the
judge, Jack. I got half a dozen in a file folder with his
signature already on them in case I need one in an emergency. He
trusts my judgment. He took a long weekend after attending the
smack-down, and I think they's suppose to take Cody out to see
Billy this afternoon for another treatment. I'll get my secretary
to fill in the form and we can drive out to the Hickson place
together. Whatever you do, Bubba, don't let your temper flair. Let
me and Jack do our jobs. I guarantee you, if he's guilty, our
sudden appearance will put the fear of a vengeful God in Earl
Hickson. If I'm correct, he's only got one more arrest to go to be
sent up for life or sold into slavery. A lot will depend on you,
but let me and Jack do all the talking. I ain't trying to be mean
when I tell you to keep your mouth shut. Do you understand, Son?"
"Yes, sir. If it's true, I ain't got nothing to say to him no
ways," Bubba replied.
Bubba picked up the check and left a healthy tip for the waitress.
The men left the restaurant and Jack and Bubba followed the
sheriff around the square to his office.
"Ain't that a little unusual for the sheriff to have signed
warrants by our county judge?" Bubba asked Jack.
"Not in our new restructured government. If our sheriff was anyone
else but Will Tate, I would worry, but I don't think Will would
ever purposely abuse his station. Besides, wouldn't you trust a
man what saved your grandson's life?" Jack asked.
"Damn right I would," Bubba said.
Will brought the men into his office, completed the form, and had
Jack and Bubba sign it. They made copies for everyone, and Mrs.
Stark, the station's secretary, made up a folder and filed it
"C'moan Deputy Andy and Deputy Stan. You men take the patrol Jeep
in case we arrest Mr. Hickson. Bubba, you and Jack will ride with
me. Jack, bring along that folder what says them barns is under
the protection of the government. Don't know's we'll need it, but
just in case," the sheriff said. They left the station with
Deputies Andy and Stan following in the Jeep. They pulled into the
Hickson ranch compound and up in front of the bunkhouse. It was
still early morning and Earl wasn't out of bed yet. They woke him
up as the big men stomped up the wood steps in their heavy boots
and onto the porch. Will opened the door and hollered, "Mr.
Hickson, it's Sheriff Tate, we need to talk with you," he said.
Earl sat up in bed and reached for his Wranglers. The men stood
just inside the door and waited for him to dress. "What's this
about, Sheriff?" Earl asked. He didn't see Bubba and Jack
McCormack on the front porch until he stood and his blood ran
cold. He knew he'd been found out.
"Finish dressing, and we'll talk, Son," Will said in a
Earl pulled on his boots last and stood to face the men.
"We got a warrant to search your place for evidence you broke into
Mr. Kirkendall's house ransacked it, found an extra set of keys to
his uncle's barns, let yourself in, and took pictures of their
private property. You gave them pictures to Clarence Womack so's
he might find some way to have Mr. Kirkendall's legacy inventoried
and a value set on it in an attempt to extort a portion of his
inheritance. There's more, but I won't go into it right now. If we
search your place and don't find nothing, there ain't no need to
tell you the rest right now. So if you will stand aside, me and my
deputies will do our job," the sheriff said.
Earl turned white as a sheet. At first he didn't say anything, but
then he demanded to see the warrant. Will showed Earl the original
and handed him a photocopy. Earl didn't say a word as the sheriff
and his men began to go through his limited belongings. They
immediately found Bubba's set of keys in one the the small drawers
on top of his dresser and Earl's camera in the other. Deputy Andy
turned on the camera and browsed through the pictures. "Everyone
of them pitchers is here, Sheriff Tate," he said.
"These the set of keys you been missing, Bubba?" Will held them up
for Bubba who was still standing with Jack on the front porch.
"That's them, Sheriff," Bubba replied.
They went through Earl's closet and found three guns with brass
butt-plates. They found the 30-06, a 30-30, and a 12 gauge
double-barrel shotgun. The sheriff took out his penknife and
removed the brass plate on the 30-06. He looked on the back, and
saw the name Brad Kirkendall, his address, phone number, and
social security number neatly engraved on the back. He showed it
to Earl. Earl's face lost all color.
"Do I need to remove the plate on these other two guns, Mr.
Hickson, or do they belong to Mr. Kirkendall as well?" Will asked
"Naw, no need, Sheriff. They's Mr. Kirkendall's guns," Earl
Will arrested Earl, read him his Miranda rights, handcuffed him,
and told his deputies to take him to their Jeep. Earl wouldn't
even look at Bubba as he walked out. Jack warned Bubba not to
exchange words with him. There would be time for that later. If
Bubba wanted, Jack was sure Will would allow him to visit and
speak with Earl in private. Before they left, the Sheriff, Bubba,
and Jack walked up to the ranch house and knocked on the door.
Earl's mother slowly came to the door in her walker. She looked
stunned when she saw the sheriff. "Oh my God!" she exclaimed,
"What's my boy done now?" she asked.
"I'm sorry, Mrs. Hickson, but I had to arrest Earl this morning on
charges he broke into Mr. Kirkendall's house, ransacked it, stole
his property, and either sold or gave Clarence Womack pictures of
the inside of the late Mr. Brad Kirkendall's barns to force his
nephew, Bubba, to have an assessment made of his inheritance to
extract a percentage for himself. Unfortunately, for your son, Mr.
Kirkendall's barns are under federal protection laws. The minute
he stepped inside those barns he was committing a federal offense.
Furthermore, he stole Bubba's keys to gain entrance and three of
his uncle's guns. Since Earl has two strikes against him already,
I don't expect him to walk away from these charges, ma'am. If he
can't afford a lawyer to represent him, he will have a court
appointed attorney assigned to him," Will said.
"Oh my God!" she said again, "What am I to do? My boy is all I got
to take care of me. It's your fault, Bubba. I knew the minute you
decided to leave and go back to your uncle's ranch, Earl would go
off the deep-end and do something crazy. He's depended on you all
these years, and you let him down. How could you do this to your
brother? You could have come and talked with me. The three of us
could work this out together. You didn't have to go and get the
law involved," she wailed.
"It's unfair of you to even think that way, Erna Mae. I tried to
talk some sense into Earl, but he refused to listen. He's so damn
caught up in religion and got his head so far up Clarence Womack's
butt he can't see the light of day. There ain't no reasoning with
Earl. He's got his mind made up whatever that bible thump'n
ass-hat clown tells him to do, he does it. You ain't got much room
to talk, Erna Mae. I watched you closely all these years. You
taught Earl to be a taker and give very little in return. I got
tired of supporting him and you without so much as a thank you.
Never once't, in all these years, did you or him ever thank me for
anything I ever done for you people. When you simmer down and come
down off yore' high-horse, gimme' a call, I'll come back over
here, and we can talk. I'll do my best to help you, but remember
this, I won't hear another word about what Earl done being my
fault. Do you understand, woman!" Bubba said firmly.
Mrs. Hickson didn't answer but shook her head she acknowledged
what Bubba said.
Will and Jack chatted on the way back to town, but Bubba was
mostly quiet. He would answer a question if Will or Jack asked,
but they could tell he was torn up inside. He was full of
"What's your next move, Jack," Will asked their legal eagle.
"What do you think about filling out another one of them search
warrants to confiscate any documents Womack has as stolen
property? Arrest him and throw his ass in jail along with Earl. If
you're caught with stolen property you're still libel under the
law whether you knew it was stolen or not. Earl might testify
Womack talked him into committing a crime against his close
friend, and he might be found guilty of collusion. Either way,
let's let the judge determine Womack's intentions, and decide his
guilt or innocence," Jack said.
Will started laughing and got Bubba laughing with him. "Damn, I
like the way you think, Cowboy!" Will exclaimed, "I been wanting
to get that oily little bastard on some charge for a good while.
He does all kinds of underhanded shit to people in our community
you men ain't even heard about, but he always manages to stay
within a hair's breadth of breaking the law. You've had experience
with him, Bubba. You know how he operates. He put you men up to
trying to take pictures of the Daniels' place, and there ain't no
doubt in my mind he done the same to Earl to get him to take them
pictures. I would testify knowledge of Womack's influence in that
situation," the sheriff said, "Hell, yes! We'll put Earl in a cell
and go after Womack, but I'll make sure they's separated. We'll
put Earl in the comfortable cell in the back we call the
'celebrity suite' where he can watch TV and talk with the
deputies. We'll put Womack in our cold cell and let him stew for a
while," Will declared, "You think Billy and his staff should know
about this?" he asked.
"It couldn't hurt none. Many of his slaves are qualified attorneys
and several of them will be taking the Texas bar exams this
quarter," Jack said.
"What do you think, Bubba?" Jack asked.
"Of course we should tell 'um, they's family. They share with us.
We share with them," Bubba replied, "Besides, in this small
community, they's gonna' know about Earl and Womack's arrest
within the hour. They's gonna' wanna' know what's going on, and I
ain't hold'n nothing back from my family," he added.
"Amen to that, Brother!" Will agreed.
"I could send an e-mail to Womack's attorneys this afternoon, and
include a copy of the federal protection act covering Brad
Kirkendall's legacy to his nephew with an order for them to cease
and desist any legal proceedings against my client immediately. I
can point out they're in possession of pictures taken illegally by
one of Womack's more reactionary church members who ransacked
Bubba's house. He stole an extra set of keys to gain illegal
entry. He and Womack are in jail until the judge can hold a
hearing to determine their guilt or innocence. I can demand they
return all documents in their possession given them by Womack, and
if they ain't in our possession within twenty-four hours, I will
turn the matter over to Homeland Security," Jack said.
"Jesus! I'm glad you's on my side, Brother," Bubba said and
"Me, too, Bubba," Will agreed, and they shared a laugh, "I
wouldn't want Homeland Security coming any wheres near me," he
"Me neither," Bubba agreed, "Them spooks ain't to be messed with,"
he added, "We really gonna' get them involved, Brother?" Bubba
"Not if I can help it, Bubba, but like Teddy Roosevelt said,
'Speak softly and carry a big stick.' If the threat of Homeland
Security ain't enough to make them low-life shysters shake in
their boots, they ain't human," Jack replied.
The men returned to the station created another warrant for Womack
and headed out to his home next to the church. Jack asked Will if
he and Bubba should stay behind and find something else to do.
"And miss out on the fun? I should say not. Bubba's the victim,
and you's his representative. Just do like you done at the Hickson
place. Observe but don't comment," the sheriff said, "Who knows, I
might need you men as witnesses to Womack's reaction. He could
claim we mistreated him, were impolite, rough with him, or
anything he thinks he might get away with to sway the judge to his
favor. I don't plan to give him the chance," Will added.
The men arrived and walked to the porch. Will rang the doorbell
and Mrs. Womack answered the door. "Howdy, ma'am," Will said
taking off his hat and the rest of the men followed suit, "would
you please tell your husband, the sheriff is here and wishes to
speak with him?" Will asked.
"Yes, won't you men come in, wait in the living room, and I get
him," she invited.
The sheriff, his two deputies, and the two cowboys walked into the
living room of the comfortable parsonage and stood with their hats
in their hands waiting. Mrs. Womack returned in a moment followed
by her husband. Clarence Womack saw everyone and quickly put two
and two together. He turned a whiter shade of pale and almost
pissed his pants, but he wasn't about to be intimidated by the
authority of a tin-badge or the two big cowboys. "Ah, Sheriff
Tate, Deputy Andy, Deputy Stan, Mr. McCormack, and Mr. Kirkendall,
welcome to our humble home. What can I do for you gentlemen,
today?" he asked unctuously.
"I have a warrant signed by the county judge to search your home
or church office for stolen property, Mr. Womack," Will said
"I don't understand. What property are you talking about? I don't
know anything about any stolen property, Sheriff," Womack said
like an innocent lamb.
"Attorney McCormack received some documents from your attorneys
with pictures of the inside of the barns on Bubba Kirkendall's
property, Mr. Womack. Those photos were taken illegally by Earl
Hickson and are classified as stolen property. We have reason to
believe Mr. Hickson broke into Mr. Kirkendall's home, ransacked it
until he found an extra set of keys for the barns. He also stole
several guns from Mr. Kirkendall's home. We are here to confiscate
his stolen property and take you to jail, sir," Will said.
"You can't do that! You have no right to put me in jail. I didn't
know them pictures were taken illegally. You can't charge me with
any wrong doing!" Womack said indignantly.
"Ah, but I can, sir. Under the law, you can be held accountable
for receipt of stolen property whether you know it's stolen or
not, Mr. Womack. Furthermore, Mr. McCormack is Mr. Kirkendall's
attorney and has documents issued by the federal government
stating them barns on the Kirkendall property are under federal
protection and jurisdiction. Mr. Hickson not only broke local
laws, he broke federal laws the minute he stepped inside them
barns. He can be charged with a federal crime, and you may face
charges of collusion; howsomever, that ain't my call. I'll let the
judge decide. Now, I'm here to do the job the people of this
county elected me to do. We can make this simple, or we can do it
the hard way. Honestly, I'd much prefer the easy way, but if you
insist we stand ready to accommodate you should you chose to be
difficult. You give us the documents we're here to collect, come
with us peacefully, or we will handcuff you and make a thorough
search of your home on our own," Will said quietly.
"You won't get away with this. I'll have your job for this,
Sheriff Tate! You can't do this to the most important spiritual
leader in this community and not expect consequences," Womack said
with considerable anger.
"Just doing ma' job, Preacher. You do yours, and I'll do mine.
When you don't do your job above-board and honestly, that's when
the law steps in and reminds you, you must play the game like
everyone else in our community or suffer your own consequences.
I'll put the quality of my work product up against yours any day
of the week, or if you don't think I'm doing a good job, you might
consider running against me for sheriff next time. Either way, I
won't be the one facing a federal judge for being in possession of
stolen property. I don't need to know the how and the wherefore of
them documents. I'll let you explain your part in all this to
Judge LaFleur," Will said firmly.
Womack grumbled and complained, but led the men to his office. He
found the file folder, "There! Satisfied?" Womack barked as threw
it on the desk toward Will.
"Not completely. We have Mr. Hickson's camera with the original
pictures. How did you download them to print out copies?" Will
"Earl brought the camera here with his attachment, and we
downloaded them into my computer," Womack said.
"Unplug it and box it up, Men. We're taking it, too. Are there any
other copies of these documents, Mr. Womack?" Will asked in a
voice that said Womack better tell him the truth.
"No, you have all of them," Clarence replied.
Will walked around Womack's desk and pulled out his file drawer
from which the preacher retrieved the folder. Will thumbed through
the files until he saw one labeled "extra pictures" and pulled it
out. Sure enough, there were several extra pictures of each shot
Earl took. "Ah, Clarence, if you beat this rap, you might wanna'
take a brush-up course in your religion. As I understand it, you
can go to hell for lying the same as you can for stealing," Will
said in disgust.
"I just forgot about those!" Womack exclaimed.
"I'm sure you did. As the Church Lady might say, 'How
convenient!'" Will replied, "It's my duty to remind you, if there
are other copies or mitigating factors regarding your association
with Mr. Hickson in this matter and you lie to me, you can be
charged with additional crimes," he added.
"There are no others," Womack declared.
Will read Womack his Miranda rights, handcuffed him, and gave
instructions to his deputies to place Womack in the cell next to
the office, and he was not allowed to see or talk with Earl
Hickson. The men drove back to the sheriff's station and the
deputies took Womack across the street to the old jail. They no
sooner got to the jail when Jack's cell phone rang. He saw it was
Elmer Breedlove calling and smiled.
"Hey, Master Bull, what's up?" Jack asked.
"We's wondering the same thing, Jack," Elmer replied and laughed.
"Damn, Bubba said word would get around within an hour, and he
weren't wrong," Jack said. He went on to tell Elmer everything
that happened since they returned from Retikki Prime. Elmer was
"Hell, we go away for an hour and all hell breaks loose," Elmer
declared and laughed, "Look, I done got word from the Daniels to
gather at their place for supper. Ms. Kate just called Buster and
Everett to bring Will. Bubba must be devastated," he said.
"He's a bit shaken up about it, but we'll be there. I got to take
Bubba back to his place, and we can stop on the way. The only
other thing I have to do is stop by my office and send an e-mail
to Womack's attorneys giving them a deadline to return the
documents he sent them. We'll see you there, Master Bull," Jack
said and they disconnected.
After a cup of coffee, Jack and Bubba thanked the sheriff and his
men, told Will they would see him later with his family at the
Daniels for supper, and left to go to Jack's office.
"Did you get anything in the mail from Womack's lawyers, Bubba?"
"I ain't had time to go by the post office, Jack. I been with you
since I got back," Bubba replied.
"We'll drive by. I need to check my mail anyway," Jack said.
Bubba received the same set of documents as Jack, and they drove
to Jack's office. Jack sent a well worded e-mail telling Womack's
lawyers to cease and desist immediately and return all copies of
any documents they received within twenty-four hours, or he would
turn the matter over to Homeland Security. They spent the rest of
the afternoon at Bubba's place. Bubba got a call from Hoss at the
furniture store in Brady asking if they could make another
delivery of furniture that afternoon. Bubba told him they would be
there until six when they had to leave to have supper with
"Will your brother be there, sir?" Hoss asked.
"Yes, he's here with me now. I'll rope and hog-tie him to make
sure he don't get away," Bubba replied and laughed.
"You's a good man, Mr. Kirkendall," Hoss said, laughed, and
Bubba returned to the kitchen where Jack was explaining to Helen,
Brute, and the other five watchers about their day. Bubba had a
big grin on his face. "The furniture store delivery man called I
can't remember his name and asked if they could make another
delivery this afternoon. I told him we'd be here until six," Bubba
"Hoss, called?" Jack asked with some excitement.
"Yeah! That's his name! I remember now," Bubba said, "He asked if
ma' little brother would be here, and I told him I would make sure
you didn't make a run for it," Bubba teased.
Everyone laughed at Bubba's joke. Jack just got a big grin on his
face. "You're so mean to me, Bubba," Jack said in mock hurt.
"No, I ain't. I meant it! I told him, you even look like you's
gonna' make for the door, and I'll rope and hog-tie you, little
Brother," Bubba declared.
"And for another good look at that big cowboy, I'd let you," Jack
declared, and they shared a laugh.
* * * * * * *
Big Hoss and the same assistant arrived about four o'clock, and it
didn't take them long to off-load the furniture. They didn't say
'no' when Bubba offered them a cup of coffee. Helen was still
visiting the big house telling Jack more of the wonderful things
they saw and did on Retikki Prime, and since the delivery men saw
the watchers the time before, Bubba told Brute he didn't need to
disappear. While the men still found him interesting, they were
impressed he was a gentle beast, and weren't intimidated by him.
Besides, Brute was not what Hoss was interested in. He stayed as
close to Jack as he could get without jumping his bones. He wanted
to stay longer, but they had one more stop to make before they
returned the truck to the store in Brady. Hoss and his man left
after checking with Bubba when would be the best time for another
delivery later in the week or the following week. Bubba couldn't
give him a definite time, but told Hoss to call the evening before
he planned a delivery, and he would let him know his schedule for
the next day. He was going to have a skeleton-crew of his new
cowboys over to get started on his bunkhouse.
It was getting late and time for Jack, Bubba, and his family to
drive over to the Daniels' ranch for supper. Helen wouldn't eat,
but she enjoyed visiting and looked forward to seeing Roz again.
Jack asked to use Bubba's computer for a minute to check his
e-mails. It only took him a minute to navigate to his e-mail page
and saw he had a reply from Dewey, Cheetum, and Howe. He opened it
and couldn't believe what he was reading. The e-mail was formal
but snide suggesting Jack was a small town attorney and not quite
up-to-speed with modern law. They assured him they were convinced
their client had a strong case against Mr. Kirkendall and they
made a demand for Mr. Womack to be released from jail immediately.
If not, they were keeping in touch with his family and would be in
Mason to represent Pastor Womack at his hearing. Furthermore, they
had no intentions of returning any documents provided them by
their client. It was their policy to keep copies of all documents
on file no matter judgment in the case.
Jack was so angry he had to sit for a moment to get himself
together and allow himself to calm down. He asked Bubba to turn on
his printer for him, and he did. He quickly printed out a couple
of copies and handed one to Bubba for him to read. Bubba was as
stunned as Jack, but looked over Jack's shoulder at the e-mail he
was typing in reply. It was short and to the point. "Dear Sirs,
while I'm sure you must have good reason to assume a small town
lawyer isn't as competent as you more cosmopolitan attorneys, I
therefore bow to your greater expertise. It is unfortunate you
choose not to return the stolen documents. You leave me no other
alternative than to turn the matter over to Homeland Security and
I will do so immediately. Good luck with that. Please let me know
how it works out for you," and signed it, Jack McCormack, Esquire,
The Hill Country Bumpkin, Attorney-at-law.
Bubba laughed. "Y'ain't no country bumpkin, Brother," Bubba said,
"You really gonna' sic the Feds on 'um?" he asked.
"Probably not, but we'll wait and see," Jack said as he hit the
send-button with his center finger like a ballet dancer making a
Grand Jete' out of an inverted 'bird' gesture. Bubba laughed at
his brother's nonsense. Bubba decided Jack had a well developed
sense of the absurd. He trusted Jack to do the right thing, and he
didn't question his motives.
* * * * * * *
The invited guests for supper were the Breedloves, the Tate
contingency, and Kirkendalls, with Bubba, Jack, Helen, and Brute. You can
bet the conversation that evening was lively. Jack and Will didn't
have time during the day to discuss with Bubba what he learned or
witnessed on Retikki Prime. The stories began to pour out of the
different folks about the wonders they witnessed and observed, and
the intensive teaching sessions they attended which outlined and
discussed in depth about every known economic situation one might
imagine; those which worked and those which didn't. Those which
didn't were complete failures. The current economic condition on
Earth was at the top of the list of grand-fails in its final days,
slowly dying, gasping for breath, riding the braying austerity
jackass to the grave, before the wealthiest one percent made the
final fateful mistake of cutting off its oxygen supply
metaphorically speaking, that would be a more equal flow of cash.
Money goes up the chain like the supply of moisture and nutrients
from the roots of a tree to the highest branches. The more healthy
and widespread the roots, the better the tree gets fed. It never flows in the opposite direction. It
never comes down. No beggar has ever been
able to live from the crumbs which might happen to fall from a
rich man's table. Trickle down theory and supply side voodoo
economics was the biggest fraud ever perpetrated on the American
public. Austerity was the second.
"Okay, we can hear more about you good folks' adventures on
Retikki Prime a little later. I'm about to bust a gut from
curiosity about what went on in town today. I wanna' know how and
why Earl Hickson and Clarence Womack wound up in jail," Billy
Bubba giggled like a school boy with a secret, and Jack laughed at
him. Will spoke up, "It's Jack and Bubba's story. I'll let them
tell it," he said forking another bit of salad.
Bubba nodded to Jack and he began to tell the story from when he
opened his mail that morning. Jack proved to be a masterful story
teller. He was thorough and accurate down to the smallest
conversation. He would defer to Bubba or Will when he needed a
break. They would pick up the story and add their thoughts and
observations about the day. The rest of the family were
transfixed, hanging on their every word. Jack came down to the
very last detail of printing out the response to his e-mail from
the attorneys representing Womack. He pulled his copy from his
shirt pocket and read it so everyone could hear. His audience was
as stunned as Jack and Bubba were at the hubris and insulting tone
of the e-mail.
"Yeah, but you should a' read the short but funny e-mail Jack sent
back to 'um. He told them they left him no option but to turn the
matter over to the Feds," Bubba said and laughed.
"Is that your plan, Jack?" Billy asked.
"I just made the threat. I told Bubba we should carry a big stick,
but that don't mean we have to use it. I would really hate to get
the Feds involved. They can be a major pain in the butt, and once they get their hooks in you, you
can't never get rid of them," Jack lamented, "Our government is
run by one percent of the population, and they would only use Mr.
Kirkendall's scientific breakthroughs for their financial gain or
suppress them if they conflicted with some outdated cash-cow
they're still milking. It's my opinion we should avoid them at all
costs, even if it means pulling back from sticking it to Womack,
if it might compromise our position. Why share what's in them
barns with the top-heavy government we got now, when our family
can use Brad Kirkendall's discoveries and inventions for our own
advancement and possible protection?" Jack said strongly.
"Maybe we won't have to compromise anything, Master Jack," Cowboy
Andy spoke up, and several of Billy's staff agreed with him,
"Would you and Master Billy consider turning the matter over to us
and let us handle it for you? We were grilled night and day in
covert-ops and clandestine operations for a month and a half on
Retikki Prime, and after we complete our mission, if you ain't
satisfied with our results, we won't never volunteer for another
project. I think we're up to it. I have full faith in my fellow
team-mates. We won't tell you much about what or how we'll go
about accomplishing what needs to be done for purposes of
plausible deniablility. If you're ever questioned, you can claim
you don't know nothing about it, and you will be telling the
truth. All we need is their complete names, any personal addresses
and phone numbers you might have for them, the same information
for their offices, and we will take it from there," he said.
"When can this be accomplished, Andy?" Billy asked.
Andy looked directly at Helen Kirkendall and nodded for her to
"Would tomorrow night be too soon, Master Billy?" Helen asked.
"Not at all, if you folks think you can leave a clean slate with
no trace back to us," Billy said, "You up with it, Jack?" he
"Sure. I'd like to see what our people can do. I'll get you the
information you need right after supper," Jack said, "I'd like to
see them shysters taken down a peg or two," he added.
"Oh, I think we can do better than that, Master Jack," Andy said
and grinned wickedly. The rest of Billy's staff agreed with him
and laughed. Jack suddenly felt very sorry for the law firm of
Dewey, Cheetum, and Howe.
* * * * * * *
Everyone was sympathetic and full of empathy for Bubba. Not only
for the scare of having a potential financially draining spurious
law suit hanging over his head, but also for having been betrayed
by his boyhood friend and close companion. They allowed religion
will do that to a person. The Breedloves, in particular, agreed.
Bubba never felt like he had solid family until that night, but
his emotionally conflicting day was not without some comfort. He
talked, laughed, exchanged ideas and humor with everyone like they
were his close relatives whom he could trust and love without
fear. With Earl and his mother, it was like a cold, never ending
landfill that could never be filled. Still, he had a nagging hurt
in the back of his mind and a great need to resolve it; however,
seeing his buddy thrown into jail didn't ease his pain a whit it
only added to his growing conundrum.
Jack and Bubba went off to Billy's staff's temporary offices in
one of the larger two bedroom apartments on the third floor. They
were wowed by their organized working area. Nothing was out of
place, and it looked like what Jack and Bubba decided was a
'war-room' for them to work. To Bubba and Jack's surprise, their
leader or head coordinator was their Aunt Helen. It seemed the
powers on Retikki Prime were so impressed with Helen's growth and
potential, they put her in charge of Master Billy's planning,
coordinating, and financial team. Helen never forgot even the most
minute detail, she could actively interface with any computer, and
much more. She was seated at the biggest desk like a queen bee
with her workers gathered around feeding her bits of information
like royal jelly and receiving output and suggestions from her.
Together they reminded Bubba and Jack of a hive-mind planning
their fall harvest of a great field of sweet clover.
Jack gave Aunt Helen the folder he created for the correspondence
he received from the firm of Dewey, Cheetum, and Howe. With
limited information, Aunt Helen and Billy's team took it from
there. Within an hour they probably knew more about each man than
the federal government did. They were thorough and bull dogs at
sniffing out information which might prove important to their
mission. Jack knew his way around a computer, but some of the
programs and tools they were using were way beyond him. Billy
called Bubba and Jack away from what became known as the
'Synergy-room' and took them back downstairs for dessert, coffee,
and more conversation. Before they left, they said 'goodbye' to
Aunt Helen. "With your permission, Nephew, I'd like to remain here
this evening. They will need me to coordinate this operation. We
will be working around the clock until we accomplish our goal. The
more time we have, the more successful and secure our mission will
be," Helen said.
"Of course you may stay here tonight. I have a feeling you will be
busy and have lots of company. I'm proud of you Aunt Helen. Jack
and I will check in with you later. Have a good productive
evening," Bubba said, gave her a quick hug, and a kiss on her
Jack and Bubba left and returned to the kitchen. They sat down to
a delicious plate of hot apple cobbler with a scoop of vanilla ice
cream melting on top.
"Do we know anything about when Earl and Clarence might be brought
before the judge?" Billy asked.
"We won't know anything until the judge comes to his office
tomorrow. We know Womack's wife has contacted his attorneys in
Austin, but there ain't much they can do until Judge LaFleur comes
to the court house. I'm bet'n he won't allow Womack bail. If he
made that concession for Womack, it might look bad for the judge
if he didn't extend the same for Earl; however, Earl's already
done got two strikes against him," Will said.
"A lot will depend on what impact our team makes on Womack's
attorneys," Jack said, "I ain't real sure Womack can wiggle his
way out of this one. He could possibly do time," Jack said.
"That wouldn't stress me out none," Billy said. Everyone smiled
"On the other hand," Jack continued, "the judge could be swayed by
public opinion and let him off on jail time and probation," he
"That sounds more likely to me," Nathan said and several of the
older cowboys agreed with him.
"Either way, hopefully, it will take him down a notch or two,"
"Ain't very likely," Tron said without nuance.
"I agree, Ramrod," Billy said in frustration.
The family talked some more about the wonders of Retikki Prime and
their experiences. It made Jack long for the day he might get to
visit another world. The evening came to an end and Bubba, Jack,
and Brute departed for Bubba's place. The Breedloves and Tates
left right behind them. After Bubba and Jack got back to the
Kirkendall ranch, they parted and Jack returned to his ranch.
Bubba got ready for bed and Brute insisted he bathe his master
with his tongue. Bubba wasn't much in the mood, but he humored his
beast. It didn't take long for Bubba to be swept up in his beast's
dedicated passion to take care of his bairn. When Brute finished,
Bubba was so relaxed his emotional safeguards were swept away by
Brute's affection and need to serve his master, the big cowboy
broke down and cried himself to sleep in Brute's big furry arms.
(Yes, Virginia, even the biggest, roughest, toughest cowboys
sometime need to let it all out in the arms of someone they love.)
* * * * * * *
Judge LaFleur sat down with his court clerk over coffee the next
morning and went over his schedule for the week. He already knew
about the two arrests the sheriff and his deputies made the
previous day. The preacher's wife tried to call him at his home to
demand he release her husband immediately, but the old judge's
wife was a bull-dog at not allowing anyone to get through to him
unless it was someone, with whom, he wanted to talk. He wouldn't
have signed blank warrants for the sheriff if he didn't feel he
could trust Will Tate's judgment, and his trust in the sheriff
wasn't garnered overnight. It took years working together and
cultivating mutual respect for each other. The judge was satisfied
if Will Tate didn't have a damn good reason for his actions, he
never would have used the warrants in the first place. Besides,
even the old judge wasn't without some horse sense and developed a
distaste for Womack's hyper-evangelistic showboating and
questionable money grubbing tactics bordering on extortion. The
first date the judge would have a block of time open to hold
public hearings for Earl and Womack's arrests would be Wednesday
of the following week. LaFleur thought a week in jail just might
be what Womack needed to wake him up to the reality, his God might
not come to the rescue of a preacher when he was working at the
devil's exercises. Womack was livid when he learned he wouldn't be
getting special treatment because of his imagined
'exalted-position' within the community.
Earl, on the other hand, was in no hurry for a hearing. He could
have cared less. He was being fed pretty good and got to watch as
much TV as he wanted. The deputies gave him the remote and let him
choose what he wanted to watch. He figured it was going to be bad
for him, but probably not as bad as what he might suffer if Womack
told what he knew. At least this way, Womack was sitting in the
other cell facing charges, and Earl didn't feel alone in the boat.
Still, there was the chance Womack might rat him out and Earl
might take a heavier hit; however, he was hoping Womack's
credibility in the eyes of the judge would be weakened. Perhaps,
it would make the little two-bit charlatan look like he was
seeking revenge for being nailed for his collusion with Earl to
gain secret information about Bubba's legacy for his benefit the
old hand-in-the-cookie-jar set up. Earl laughed to himself. He
carefully set the trap, and the greedy fat-ass little
son-of-a-bitch jumped on the bone like a hungry dog.
* * * * * * *
Claude Dewey got the Womack papers out of the fancy wood file
cabinet and made a phone call to the Mason County court clerk to
inquire about the firm's client. He found out the judge didn't
have time to look at the case and wouldn't until probably Thursday
or Friday at which time he would set bail for Mr. Womack. Until
that time Mr. Womack would remain in jail. Dewey thanked the clerk
and disconnected. It was not unusual for small towns to be slower
than molasses on a cold winter's day to get anything done. He
called it 'cowboy time.' A cowboy will tell you he'll do something
for you and he will eventually, but it will be in his own good
time. Claude Dewey grew up in just such a small community and knew
about cowboy time. He reviewed the last e-mail exchange between
his partner, Dan Howe, and the small town attorney. Claude noted
the attached federal protection document attached, and his blood
ran cold. It looked pretty damn legitimate to Claude and wondered
how stupid his partner could be to refuse to dump the case.
With Dan Howe's refusal to even consider the document was like
lighting the fuse to a bomb which potentially might blow up in
their face. He quickly thumbed through the contents of the
pictures, and they looked like inventions with one flying disk
machine which was years ahead of its time, and he could only
imagine the total worth -- to say nothing of the stunning works of
art. Claude taught his partners to pander to small time semi-legal
hustlers who put the screws to people in such a manner it was to
their advantage to pay them off rather than pay huge sums to fight
them. They lived quite comfortably sucking the souls out of others
whose only crime was trusting a highly top-heavy unregulated legal
system. As he returned the Womack folder to the file cabinet, he
made a mental note to talk with Dan Wednesday morning about the
case, urge him to reconsider returning the documents, and dropping
Womack as a client altogether. He didn't care to deal with
Homeland Security. He heard stories. He knew they could be
* * * * * * *
Bubba drove by the sheriff's office the next afternoon and asked
Will if he could have his permission to visit Earl and take him a
double patty belly-buster with cheese, fries, and a vanilla shake
from the Dairy Queen. He explained it was a peace offering, and he
wasn't trying to kill his brother with a nickel-note heart attack.
Will laughed and told him he was free to visit Earl anytime he
wanted as long as his jailers were on duty. If it was after hours,
just go to the back door and knock. Bubba walked across the street
to the old stone two story jail. They never used the second story,
but extended the back with a more modern lean-to affair for the
comfort of the jailers and their one 'guest' cell they sometime
referred to as the 'celebrity suite.' It was the only jail cell in
Texas with its own private bathroom with shower.
Bubba saw Earl dressed in his prisoner garb what looked like a
pair of black and gray striped pajamas and wearing a pair of
dollar store house shoes. Earl looked up and saw Bubba walk in and
greet the jailers with two big sacks from the Dairy Queen in his
hands. He asked if he could have supper with his brother. They
already knew he was coming and waved him back to Earl's cell. It
wasn't even locked. Earl opened the cell door and grinned at
Bubba. "What chu' doing here, Bubba?" Earl asked almost like a
challenge with just a soupηon of joy from the surprise.
"I don't give a shit what you done! Goddamn it, you's still my
little brother, and I don't want you to starve to death. Besides,
I wanna' make damn sure it's me what gets to throw the switch on
the electric chair and fry yore' sweet ass to make you go
bye-bye," Bubba said and grinned. He got a laugh out of Earl.
Bubba held out both sacks, "They's both the same. You can take
yore' pick so's you know one ain't poisoned. You just gotta'
remember, the flagon with the dragon is the brew what is true," he
said and laughed.
Earl took one. "Thanks, Brother, your heart always was bigger than
yore' brain. Even if you had straw for brains, and were in your
right mind, you shouldn't be here right now after what I done,"
Earl lamented, and they sat down to overload their systems on
chemicals and carcinogens. Bubba thought Mel Brooks might possibly
make a hit Broadway tune out of the concept.
They ate and chatted casually. "Will you look after my mom,
Bubba?" Earl asked.
"We went wiff' the sheriff and talked with her for few minutes.
She was upset and blamed me for ever' thing," Bubba said.
"T'weren't your fault, Brother," Earl said without nuance about to
eat a french fry.
"I told her I'd try to help her, but I didn't wanna' hear no more
talk about it being my fault. I told her I'd give her some time to
simmer down and after I talked with you, I'd come by and see what
we can work out," Bubba said.
"I'd appreciate it, Bubba. She'd do better under your care than
mine. At this point, I don't care about myself, but I do care
about my mom. She weren't right to accuse you of my deeds or
problems, Brother. I'm sorry for her words," Earl said with quiet
"I promise, I'll do my best to take care of Erna Mae no matter the
outcome, Brother," Bubba said.
"I know you will. You would without me asking. It's just the kind
of man you are, Bubba. You were right about them things you said
about me and my mom. When you ain't never had very much you come
to count on the kindness of your friends and neighbors. I guess we
got lulled into a mindset of expecting it, and that ain't right,"
"Would it do any good for me to ask why you done what you done?"
"Naw, I don't think so. I done it. I ain't real proud of myself,
but I ain't gonna' deny it when I go before the judge. I'm gonna'
tell him the truth," Earl said.
"As dumb as I can be sometimes, didn't you think I would
eventually put two and two together?" Bubba asked.
"I knew you would. I's count'n on it," Earl said and grinned, "I
took four of your uncles guns. I knew you'd discover they's gone
sooner or later," he added.
"Four? They only found three in your closet," Bubba said
"That's 'cause I sold the fourth one, a handgun, to Womack for
thirty-five bucks. I told him I stole it from your house, and he
said he didn't care where it came from; your loss was his gain. It
had one a them brass plates on it, too. He said he wanted it for
his wife," Earl said and grinned.
"Wait a minute. I'm beginning to see a pattern here," Bubba said,
"I think I underestimated you, Brother," he added.
"Maybe. Maybe not. I ain't real sure myself," Earl replied and
"Are they feeding you good, Brother?" Bubba asked.
"Are you kidding? It's better food than I's get'n at home. You
know my mom can't cook worth a tinker's dam. Hell, they fed me a
good breakfast this morning. I had a nice sandwich for lunch with
some homemade German potato salad. It was damn good, too. Better'n
we get over to the Willow Creek. I won't need supper after this
belly-buster. I'll tell 'um to let Clarence have my supper. Thanks
for the treat, Bubba, and your visit," Earl said.
"You gonna' tell me the truth about what's going on, Earl?" Bubba
"Womack's been blackmailing me, Bubba," Earl said.
"How?" Bubba asked surprised.
Earl went on to tell Bubba about the great job he had in Belton
after they got back from the Middle East which he quit and came
home suddenly. "Remember our old buddy, Erin Mascaro?" Earl asked.
"Yeah, you got a medal for saving his life," Bubba replied.
"Remember I told you I bought a sweet little used car and was
doing well, but I didn't have it when I come home?" Earl asked.
"Yeah, you told me you sold it before you left," Bubba said.
"I didn't. It's on the bottom of Lake Belton," Earl said. He went
on to tell Bubba how their buddy was drunk, pulled a gun on Earl
and threatened to shoot him if he didn't drive through a package
liquor store in Killeen. Earl did what Erin told him, and he
robbed the place. After Erin sobered up, he let Earl go, but they
were looking for Earl's car because they suspected the driver was
an accomplice to the robbery. Earl ditched the car in Lake Belton
and hitch-hiked back home where he laid-low until the smoke
cleared and memories lapsed. His dad was still alive at the time,
and Earl never left the ranch for a year. Somehow, Womack found
out and told Earl he went to see Erin in prison. He told Earl the
man said he would sign an affidavit he lied in court and Earl
really was an accomplice in the crime. "Womack's been threatening
me ever since. He told me unless I got something on you so's he
could suck money out of your inheritance he was going to send a
letter to the sheriff of Killeen and the state attorney general.
First he was after Billy Daniels, but when your uncle died he
smelled inheritance, and took after you like a heat-seeking
missile. I didn't want to do it, but I didn't know what else to
do, Bubba," Earl lamented.
"So you set him up to take a fall," Bubba said like he put the
final piece together in his puzzled mind.
"Pretty much, Brother. I knew them barns was under the protection
of the federal government, and I took a chance they probably still
were. I remember your uncle talking with us about it. Remember, we
saw them feds come out a number of times to check on his shit?
After the regime change, they pretty much forgot about him, but I
knew they were still considered off-limits to anyone who weren't
suppose to be in there. I figured, if I could make Womack look bad
and his honesty came into question, he might think twice before he
lied about my part in the liquor-store heist in Killeen," Earl
"Have you talked with Erin?" Bubba asked.
"No, I's afraid to. I didn't know if they might still be on the
lookout for me," Earl said, "I heard Erin refused to give them the
name of the man what was driving the car. He said the guy was
innocent. He held a gun on him and told him he would kill him if
he refused to do what he told him. It seems strange he agreed to
change his story, especially since I saved his damn life," Earl
"It does, indeed, Brother," Bubba said like he was musing, "What
now, Earl," he asked.
"I just don't give a damn no more, Bubba. I think I done seen the
light of day about religion and what it can do to a man. I don't
care if I burn forever in hell, I don't wanna' be like Womack. If
I have to go to prison for life or become a slave, I don't care,
but I wanted to do something to bite him in his fat ass so's he
wouldn't get off scot-free," Earl said disgusted.
After a bit more conversation, Bubba decided it was time to go and
said his 'good-byes' to Earl and the jailers. He walked back over
to the sheriff's office and found Will starting to close up shop
for the evening. After some chat about his visit with Earl, Bubba
asked Will how long a warrant was viable?
"Thirty days, Cowboy. Why do you ask?" Will asked.
"Earl just told me there were four guns he took from my place, and
he sold a hand gun to Womack for his wife to keep around the house
in case anyone tried to break in. He said he told Womack he stole
it from my property, but the preacher said he didn't care; my loss
was his gain," Bubba said.
Will got a blank look on his face. "That's tangible evidence, and
he didn't say nothing about no hand gun. Damn, that little
bastard, you heard me stand there and tell him if he didn't tell
me the truth, he could be brought up on more charges. That's
blatant withholding of evidence. If there's anything Judge LaFleur
hates it's a liar. This will not go well for the spiritual leader
of our community," Will lamented in mock concern, "If Earl
testifies he told Womack he stole it from you, his ass is grass.
You got time? Let's run over there and ask Mrs. Womack about it.
If he told her it was stolen, he's in deep shit up to his
eyeballs," Will allowed.
The sheriff, his deputies, and Bubba jumped into Will's patrol car
and drove to the parsonage. Mrs. Womack answered the door. She
looked puzzled. "What can I do for you men?" she asked.
"We need to come in and take another look around, Mrs. Womack. The
search warrant I gave your husband yesterday is good for thirty
days. We're looking for a small handgun Mr. Womack bought for you
from Earl Hickson. Do you know where it is, ma'am?" Will asked.
"Why, yes, it's in my sewing room. I don't know why he bought it.
He paid Earl thirty-five dollars for it, but I won't ever use it.
I'm afraid of guns, Sheriff," she said.
"Did Pastor Womack say anything about it being stolen, Mrs.
Womack?" Will asked.
"No, he said Bubba gave it to Earl, and the poor young man needed
money, so Clarance, being the wonderful Christian man he is,
wanted to help him out and bought it from him," she replied.
"Can you show us to your sewing room, and we'll be happy to remove
it for you, ma'am," Will said like he was doing her a public
"Yes, of course, Sheriff, right this way," she said.
The four men followed her, she opened a drawer in her sewing
cabinet, and there was the .35 caliber hand gun with a small brass
plate on the bottom. Will took his pen, put it through the trigger
guide, retrieved a plastic bag from his back pocket, asked Bubba
to hold it open, and dropped the gun inside. They thanked Mrs.
Womack graciously for her time, apologized for disturbing her, and
returned to the station. Will told his deputies and Bubba to keep
their mouths shut around Womack about finding the hand gun. He
would take that up separately with the judge.
Bubba couldn't wait to call Jack and tell him the latest news.
"You got plans for supper, Brother?" Bubba asked over his cell
"I's just gonna' open a can of something and get to bed early.
Tonight's gonna' be the night Billy's posse is gonna' do their
thing, and I wanna' be fresh in the morning to find out how it
comes out," Jack said.
"Screw opening a can! I'm in town. I'll drive over, brave them
Kamikaze gooses to gather you, and take you to supper over to
Nacho Mamas. Yore' chassis looks like it
could use a good grease job. It might loosen that tight little
asshole of yorn and stop the squeak when you fart. I'll fill you
in on some interesting things what happened today," Bubba said.
"Squeaking farts can be embarrassing. Okay, smooth talker, I'll
shelve the can, and be ready when you get here. I'll be waiting on
the porch in case Satan and Matilda decide to go into def-con
exterminate mode," Jack said and laughed.
They went to dinner and Jack was floored by Bubba's conversation
with Earl and discovering the other gun. "It don't look good for
Clarence, but you never know what kind of deal his shyster
attorneys might try. I've seen men walk away from worse;
especially, if it's a first-time offense. He could get off with a
stern warning and probation," Jack allowed, "You seem in better
spirits this evening. Are you comfortable with Earl's
explanation?" he asked.
"I been so confused and hurt I didn't know what to think. It was
the first time I talked with Earl since we went to breakfast
together a week ago, and I threw my cards on the table. I didn't
know what I expected, but I thought it might have something to do
with my being honest with him. I feel better he didn't let my
honesty bother him much," Bubba replied. Bubba went on to tell
Jack Earl's story of their buddy Erin Mascaro and his unfortunate
decision to rob a drive through liquor store in Killeen. Jack sat
spellbound by Bubba's latest revelation. He began to change his
mind about Earl Hickson and could understand why Bubba seemed
"A trip to Huntsville to talk with Mr. Mascaro couldn't do no
harm, Bubba. He could either confirm Womack's story or shoot him
down," Jack said, "Either way, at least we'll have more
information to work with," he added.
"Would you go with me, Brother?" Bubba asked.
"You couldn't talk me out of it, Bubba," Jack said and grinned, "I
ain't had this much fun in years, and thanks to you, I'm feeling
young enough to take on the challenge," he added.
"And one other thing and I wouldn't expect no proto boner,
neither I'd pay your standard rate as an attorney " Bubba
didn't finish his sentence.
"You want me to represent Earl Hickson?" Jack asked amazed.
"Yeah," Bubba replied sheepishly.
"I won't say 'no,' Bubba, but lemme' think about it. Let's give it
a little time. We'll talk some more. Depending on our family's
success or failure with them three attorneys in Austin and Judge
LeFleur's opinion, it just might change the picture some. I don't
know if LeFleur would allow me to represent Earl since he knows I
think on you as family. Since he's come to think on you and me as
part of his extended family, he's gonna' have a tough time
remaining objective. He would have ample reason to recuse himself,
but I doubt he will. Small town judges develop tough hides and not
much influences them one way or t'other. There's a little thing in
law called conflict of interest in other words my close
association with you might sway my thoughts about Earl, and I
couldn't represent him honestly without prejudice," Jack
explained, "You's coming from your gut, Bubba, and you're allowing
your love for Earl to overlook what he done to you. That's a
conflict of interest. Law tries to work from reason. There ain't
no doubt, sometimes it fails miserably, but until we get a better
system, it's all we got to work with," he added.
"Okay, I understand, but keep it in mind. I won't bring it up
again, but the offer is open if you see yore' way clear to
represent him," Bubba said.
"If the possibility arose, would you want him for your slave,
Bubba?" Jack asked.
"No! Absolutely not! I wouldn't even consider it," Bubba replied
firmly, "I refuse to place ma'self in that position. I'd be like a
fat lady what works in a doughnut factory. I wouldn't mind if he
was to become one of Billy Daniels' punishment slaves. In fact, if
Billy would accept him, I'd buy Earl and give him to Billy. I
could see him regularly and know he's being well cared for. Earl
might have a rough time with it at first, but he's always been a
tight-ass about ever' thing anyway. Like old Orville, it just
might broaden his horizons a mite -- so to speak," Bubba said and
"It might make Earl wake up and learn to take responsibility for
his actions and himself," Jack said.
"I believe in miracles," Bubba said, and the cowboys shared a
Bubba asked the mature waitress for a goose-bag to go. The poor
lady had no idea what Bubba was talking about, but she was used to
cowboys. Nothing would surprise her anymore. Bubba bagged up the
scraps of meat and fat from their steak picado, extra bread, and
tortillas left on the table. He was bound and determined he was
going to win-over them two devil geese, Satan and Matilda. He
drove Jack back to his ranch and got out of the truck. From far
away, here they come -- half running, half flying -- in attack
mode, but they stopped dead in their tracks when they saw Bubba
pull bread from his bag and offer it to them. He began to break it
into smaller pieces and toss it to them. They looked at each other
like, what the fuck? As if they read each other's minds, they ran
to Bubba in a fast waddle and made gaggling sounds as they
accepted and gobbled up his treats. One brick set in place does
not a highway make; however, Bubba paid his toll for that evening,
and they allowed he might not be so bad after all. They would take
his generosity under consideration.
* * * * * * *
Wednesday morning early, Claude Dewey got a wake up call from his
firm's secretary. "Hello, Mr. Dewey, this is Ester calling. I
think you better call your partners and get down to your offices
as soon as you can," she said.
"What is it, Ester? What's going on?" Dewey asked.
"You wouldn't believe me if I told you, sir. You must see for
yourself," she said and disconnected before Claude could ask
anymore questions. He called his partners to meet him at the
office as soon as possible; something big was up, but the
secretary wouldn't tell him. They agreed to meet him there. When
they arrived the secretary was waiting outside on a bench under a
tree. They walked with her to the office. Dewey opened the door,
and they walked into an empty space. There was nothing in any of
the three main offices or the reception area. Desks, files,
chairs, pictures, framed diplomas, potted plants, even the carpets
were gone. The only thing left was a single envelope with the
names, Dewey, Cheetum, and Howe neatly written on the front.
Inside was a letter on Homeland Security stationary: Dear Sirs,
You were duly warned you were dealing with a Federal Protection
case, yet you chose to ignore it. Any attempts to investigate this
seizure of information will be met with equally swift retribution.
It was signed by the head of Homeland Security.
End of Chapter 48 ~ Him Who Made The Seven Stars
Copyright ~ © ~ 2013 ~ Waddie Greywolf
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