Eidetic Sunshine

Eidetic Sunshine

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Chapter 10


“Eddie hadn’t left yet but he’d gotten lucky and was away making some scrip when they repaired the rail station over in Leesburg.  Two years Momma and Poppy had been dead, and we’d been on our own.  Tavern was just really starting to make a name for itself.  I don’t blame Eddie for being gone, we had to have the money, and I’m not sure it would have changed what happened anyway.  Things were finally … things were finally getting better overall, but there were still plenty of pockets of dark.  Lots of divisions all over the place … by geography, by wealth or what was left of it, by language and ethnicity … by race.” 

Butch growled, “Dammit …” 

Impatiently Danny asked, “You want to know or you want to interrupt me with your cussing?” 

Butch shook his head angrily.  “I remember that year.  I had just been inducted into the training academy.  We heard about that kind of trouble popping up … it got a few guys kicked out of the academy when they tried to bring it into the dorms … but no one ever said anything about it being around here.  From what I had heard around here was almost like a haven.” 

Cynicism dripped from Danny’s every word.  “Most people didn’t want to know back then, they sure don’t want to remember it now that they’ve buried it so deep and hidden from it so well.”  She snorted and shook her head before continuing.  “And it wasn’t as bad here as it was in other places; mostly vandalism and a little harassment.  But it only takes a little bad to infect a lot of people a little bit and it only takes one person to go off the deep end to make a little bad into a lot worse.”  Looking into the past Danny said, “I’d forget if I could.  It would make dealing with some people around here easier.”  Danny sighed.  “Delia, she looks the most like Momma.  Nita comes next but both of them can’t deny their Spanish heritage even if they are real light skinned compared to me.  Eddie took after Poppy’s father who was a Spaniard; he is light skinned but never burns … always had what Poppy called a cowboy tan.  Joey favors that side of the family too.  Tito and I though are closer to Poppy’s grandmother’s looks and she was pure Cuban though there really is no such thing since so many races and ethnicities make up the Cuban population that you can have kids of all different colors that come out of the same two parents. I’m still two shades darker than Tito most of the time though his skin tone varies less than mine.  I lighten up during the winter, Tito doesn’t.” 

A little uncomfortably Butch said, “I’m assuming you’re saying this for a reason.” 

“Just setting the stage.  It doesn’t really mean anything to me but it sure as heck meant something to people back then … and still means something to people today though they’re more careful about how they let it show or didn’t you read all the options on the federal census they just did?  It was a real shock for people to see that mulatto was an option on there and so many different variations of Hispanic.  Heck for the international races they asked if whether someone was aryan or non-aryan.”  Danny stopped and shook her head.  “Sorry, didn’t mean to go down that road.  It just blows my mind how over-involved people can get with their psuedoscience.” 

“Psuedo … never mind,” Butch sighed.  “Just tell it.  We can argue people’s stupidity some other time.  Might actually be the only thing we ever agree on.” 

Danny chuckled wryly in agreement then got serious once again.  “The fact that Eddie was off working … well we were sitting ducks and didn’t even know it.  It happened suddenly and without warning like someone had wound a crowd of drunks up and then sent them off in different directions to wreck havoc.  Honestly is about what did happen from what Father Brannigan put tother.  For sure we weren’t the only ones that got attacked.  Men came into the yard.  Delia grabbed up the kids and made it into the tavern and Mr. Maddox shot a man trying to get in after them.  I got taken while I was doing laundry.  They carried me off on someone’s horse into the woods and then threw me to the ground when we reached a clearing big enough for them to work in.  They started horsewhipping me, saying things like they’d ride me like a filly when they were through or that they’d teach me to be uppity or that I was a half-breed and an abomination or … well it really doesn’t matter what they said, I chose not to listen to them.” 

In a voice hoarse with anger Butch asked, “My God, you were nothing but a baby back then.  How did you get away?” 

“I think being ten years old was why I survived.  When you are just a kid you still think someone is going to come to the rescue.  So I just kept fighting.  I was too scared not to fight.  It hurt.  Sometimes if I dream about it I wake up hurting just like I did back then.  One of the drawbacks of having such a good memory,” Danny sighed tiredly.  “But the guy’s arm finally give out, he wasn’t in great shape and whipping someone is more work that most people think.  Then they threw me down only I didn’t stay down … I ran … sorta ran anyway.  My clothes were barely hanging on me and I kept tripping over palmetto roots.  Didn’t get far before I went down hard but in the end it was a blessing that I didn’t have to keep going because I don’t know how far I would have made it.   

Father Brannigan had gotten some men together and come looking for me.  Father Brannigan, Cleavis Ocampo, and Terry Bryan.  They’re the ones that found me.  Mr. Ocampo turned the horsewhip on those men … marked them for life the same way they had marked me.  Nearly didn’t stop and wouldn’t have if Father Brannigan and Mr. Bryan hadn’t pulled him off.  Mr. Ocampo was white but had been adopted by his mother’s second husband.” 

“Who was Spanish.” 

“Yep.  Did you ever hear why the Ocampo and Bryan families moved away?” 

“Cleavis died in a freak hunting accident and his wife took their kids and moved to wherever she had family though I never heard where … it was before I was stationed in Wildwood.  The Bryans?  They just seemed to be here one day and gone the next.  I can’t recall hearing anything in particular.” 

“And you won’t, at least not the truth of what really happened.  Mr. Bryan’s wife got some kind of female sickness – might have turned into cancer in the end, I’m not sure.  I am sure that she was in a lot of pain.  He … borrowed … scrip to get her into the hospital in Gainesville.  She died while getting treatment but he still tried to pay his debt like an honest man.  But his debt holder decided to call it all in … and when he couldn’t pay, took his two kids as reimbursement and for all intents and purposes sold them into indenture.  Mr. Terry and Mrs. Ocampo actually … well they moved off together but not to Mrs. Ocampo’s brother.  They went looking for Mr. Bryan’s kids to bail them out.  The Ocampo and Bryan families had been close since before Flare Day.   Guess they stayed close.” 

“Did you get this through tavern gossip?” 

“Nope, from Father Brannigan one night when he had a drunk on.  It would happen once or twice a month.  I suppose you might say that was the Irish in him but mostly I think it was the devil getting to him.  He was a saint on the one hand with all he has given but he’s also just a man and the stress would get to him.  I wouldn’t let no one but me take him back to the church manse and he’d talk almost the whole way there, like I was the confessor that he was for everyone else.” 

“Jesus.” 

“Not hardly so don’t blaspheme, just me paying a debt I can never pay all of.  I’ve stayed silent all these years about all the things I know about people around here more out of respect for Father Brannigan than any high ideals anyone might otherwise attribute to me so don’t you go getting any ideas about pumping me for information either because it won’t work. But …” 

“But?” 

“Those three men that were killed that day at the tavern … the day you came back sick.  You never heard their names did you?” 

“No, there wasn’t time to get a full accounting of what had happened.  It wasn’t too long after that that Tallahassee arrived. Why?” 

“I recognized two of the men … didn’t identify them since I didn’t know the investigator in charge, he had too much fool in him for my taste.  One was Claudio Ocampo and the other was Bryan Terry so I guess Mr. Bryan found his kids or at least somehow the Ocampo and Bryan families stayed in contact.  I haven’t wanted to know how they hooked up after all those years and I sure haven’t worried too much about how they got where they got.  But maybe someone should.  There might be a story in there.” 

“Sum bitch.” 

“It gets better.” 

“Oh it does does it?” 

“Yeah, and this is the part that is going to make me seem … look, I can’t stand the undertaker.  He desecrates the living and the dead … and he’s got freaky sex habits according to Cindy, too freaky even for her so you know they gotta be outrageous.  So I stripped the bodies and put what I found there in burlap bags.  I meant to turn them over to the investigator but he left so quick I didn’t even have a chance.  I was trying to figure out a way to turn those bags in without getting caught when you show up and I think my prayers have been answered only you go and keel over in a mud puddle and things start moving so fast … I honestly just didn’t think they were important Butch; or should I say not important the way it is looking like they are important.” 

“I can’t say whether they are or aren’t but you’re right that you could get in trouble.  Still, unless it is something obvious …” 

“They may be why you got pulled in.  Had I turned them over maybe nothing would have ever … conyo … I feel like a fool.” 

Butch was silent for a moment then asked, “You still got the bags?” 

“Yeah and I swear I haven’t touched the contents since I put it in the bags and labeled them.  You’ve been sleeping over them the whole time and God help us both if Hunter had been any more suspicious than he already is.” 

Carefully Butch said, “You’re … you’re implicating Hunter.  Are you sure you know what you are talking about?” 

“Yeah.  And I know you’re going to hate me for it but hear me out.  It might be a matter of life and death for both of us.” 

Butch slowly nodded, at least temporarily willing to hear Danny out. 

“I don’t think Hunter is … well maybe he is, I don’t know what to think just yet.  I never would have thought anything if Hunter hadn’t overplayed his hand just now.” 

“Overplayed how?” 

“He basically asked me to pump you for information but not let on that’s what I was doing because he doesn’t necessarily believe you know what it is you know.” 

“What?  Daniella make sense.” 

“That’s what I’m trying to do.  I think he thinks that you know something, he just thinks you don’t realize you know something.  And what you know may not even sound like much unless you have other facts to add to it.  But he told me to only come to him with something that I thought implicated you which means that he thinks that whatever it is I’ll recognize it … which also means that he thinks I know something.  Granted he didn’t say it like that but I’m not as stupid as he apparently thinks I am.  Which surprises me … if he knew that I was the one that was funneling info through Father Brannigan he must know that I’m smarter than … I mean …” 

Thoughtfully Butch bit the inside of his lip before saying, “Not necessarily.  Hunter did know you gave Father Brannigan some information but I realized pretty quickly he didn’t think you understood what you were funneling.  He thinks I’m putting two and two together and that you’re mostly just …” 

“Full of avarice?” 

“Let’s just say he thinks you’d do most anything for your brothers.” 

“And by anything you mean everything.” 

Butch wouldn’t meat Danny’s gaze.  She shook her head.  “Fine.  But I really don’t hold that against him.  In fact I … I kinda feel sorry for him.  I’m thinking that he got in over his head and would love a way out but he has too much riding on it.  I think he … possibly anyway … would like a way to appease whomever he owes without implicating either of us.” 

“Is this where you add one of those pieces of information I’m missing?” 

“You ain’t missing it, you just think too much of Hunter whereas I … I know things.  He’s not necessarily a bad man but he’s made mistakes.  And some of those mistakes probably got used against him but mostly its his daughter.” 

Butch stared at Danny then sighed.  “Laurel.  I take it she got hooked again.” 

“Yep.  According to Father Brannigan’s ramblings he doesn’t think she was ever totally clean to begin with.  You must have suspected something when Hunter sent her off last year to go live with her mother.  Only …” 

“Only?  What else don’t I know?” 

“Hunter didn’t send her to her mother.  Her mother won’t take her after what happened last time with her … um …” 

Butch sighed.  “The thing with the step brother.” 

With a little relief Danny nodded.  “Yeah, that.  I …” 

“Yeah, I know about Laurel.  Not that the mother wouldn’t take her back though.  If she isn’t with the mother where is she?” 

“She was at that residential facility run by that coalition of churches.  It’s near Sebring.  She kept running off.  They had her in the lock down ward last I heard but it is just as possible that she got tossed out on her butt for refusing treatment protocol and is now in the hands of … whoever.  Or she could still be there and she’s … under the thumb of someone.  Hunter always did have a blind spot where Laurel is concerned.  She’s my age but … never mind.” 

“OK, so you’ve presented pretty good circumstantial evidence I’ll give you that but what are we supposed to know that is so important?” 

“Move.  Or at least skootch so that I can reach under you.” 

Butch did as asked but it took more energy than he expected it would and he silently cursed his weakness.  And when she handed him the first burlap bag its weight surprised him and he nearly dropped it.
 
“What the hell?”

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