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Looking for Answers Chapter 1 - tcreader — LiveJournal
tcreader
Looking for Answers Chapter 1





The night before Colson was to leave for Prescott, Ellery got a phone call inviting them both to dinner, scheduled early so that Colson would have plenty of time to get up early for his trip north. They both sat quietly as Edna Brown put a steaming basket of biscuits on the table, saying “help yourself,” and Colson reached for them right away.

“Very partial ta biscuits, ma’am,” he said, putting it hot onto his plate. “Don’t cook much myself, get these ones in a can from the Pillsbury doughboy.”

Edna made a little disgusted face. “Well those’ll do if you can’t get scratch biscuits but you just eat up there an you’ll see the difference, Colson. Any time you are around here you just come by and I’ll be glad to give you a tin of fresh biscuits, I bake em just about every day.”

Colson’s eyes widened slightly at the offer. “Well thank you very kindly ma’am,” and as he bit in, his mouth watered. Ellery took a pair of biscuits for himself, murmuring thanks. Wes was fully occupied carving the roast, whose flavor filled the dining room of their ranch house.

“Cookin’s about all I got energy for, unfortunately,” she sighed. “We been raisin horses out here but we just lost one of our most experienced hands...he was hired away to be a farrier, makin really good money round the horse ridin schools an dude ranches in Colorado.”

Colson nodded, sparing a glance at Ellery, who was eating, though glum. “Hard to find experienced hands? I woulda thought there’d be a ton of em. Up my way hard ta find work. I’ve been sittin by waitin for somethin, but too many ranches have closed down operations. Lot a guys out a work up north.”

“Oh yeah, see everybody’s a fancy schmanzy college eddicated cityboy nowadays, like my Chief Deputy here, too good for ranch work, don’t know how ta handle horses. I don’t even know if Ellery can ride a horse,” Wes interjected.

“You know damn well I can, Wes, now cut that out,” Ellery said, his tone disgruntled.

“Jes makin a point. You come from ranchin people, you better know how ta ride a horse,” he retorted, his tone friendly. "Now Colson what a you been up to doin ranch work, do much breakin horses, saddle trainin em?”

“Yep, when I can. That is what I got the experience with—but sometimes all there is ta do is helpin out with cattle ranches. Horse work always better payin, harder ta find, but yeah, I broke em an saddle trained. Western only a course.”

“Best price a horse rancher can get is on a saddle trained two three year old with nice looks, strong legs an a gentle manner. I’m good at pickin em, but I got this damn city department ta run.”

“Oh Wes!” Edna exclaimed, pouring brown gravy into a server to go with their meat. “Do ya have ta talk about work over dinner?”

“Now come on, Edna, lemme talk. So this man we lost, see, he used ta do the buyin for us, a dozen or two dozen fillies, then raise em up an saddle break em, then sell em for a tidy profit. We’re gonna have to sell off the ones he trained an call it a day if we can’t find someone got that mix a skills,” Wes went on, ignoring Edna’s outburst.

Colson blinked, glanced once more at the sullen Ellery, and then fixed Wes with a look. “Sir, are you offerin me a job?”

Wes smiled a little smile. “Well, depends on if you think you can pick healthy horses with a good temper when they’s just fillies, an if you got a good hand with em. No mistakin yer a quiet sort, keep to yerself, an seein as how you’re already in the family, so ta speak...” he nodded at Ellery, who looked up, silently, exchanging glances with Wes...“I don’t see as how it is a losin proposition. We’d have ta agree on hours an salary an all that. You ain’t got someone ta answer to, no ranch work outstandin right now you got ta go back and finish?”

Colson shook his head. “No sir. Been out a work an lookin. I am sure I can get a reference from the operation that went out a business if ya want it. Horses an cattle, but more lookin after em than actual saddle trainin, last couple years.”

Wes nodded. “You write down his name an I’ll make a call. This way I can make sure you stay close round here while we attend to some of the less pleasant duties my wife don’t want me ta go into at the dinner table.”

“Right,” Edna chimed in.

“I’ll surely do that. I’ll be goin back soon as my truck’s squared away...that’ll be tomorrow sometime, an maybe come back Sunday—” he once again glanced over at Ellery.

“You gonna need a place ta stay, Colson?” Edna said, cutting her meat into delicate slices.

“Uh...”

“No, he don’t need a place ta stay unless he’s sick a me,” Ellery interjected.

“I’m all set, at least fer now,” Colson said, a blush creeping across his face. He had not expected to be arranging to stay with Ellery while at the dinner table with the sheriff and his wife, and much less to be offered a job.

“Well you can always stay here, not quite the accommodation of city life, but we do have a comfortable bunkhouse if you don’t like the drive in from Ellery’s,” Wes said, his voice neutral. “We’ll get it all sorted next week. When you get in ta town you just give us a call an you an Ellery come have dinner here by us, get you fattened up on biscuits and roast.”

“You boys are both too thin, ya need at least one good meal a week.”

“Yes ma’am,” Colson said, helping himself to his third biscuit.

“I could eat all day an all night an wouldn’t get any fatter Edna, didn’t you know that?” Ellery said.

“I don’t believe that fer a minute, Ellery. It’s all in the number a calories you eat. You probably don’t even eat regularly.”

“That is just flat not true, Edna. It’s my nerves. Yer husband drives me like a slave, much as I try not ta say so for his sake.”

Wes smiled sweetly. “That’s why you got that raise. So my conscience will be completely clear when I call you up nights an burst in on you with emergency situations—oh wait, that’s what you just done ta me! The more fool me.”

“Point taken, Wes,” Ellery grunted.

Colson busied himself with the delicious pot roast, the meat’s excellence reminding him of the dinner he had had a couple of weeks before, the night that Ellery had “wined and dined” him. It seemed like a year ago. He felt like he was walking on air...being offered a job, working for people that Ellery trusted and considered his friends...only twenty minutes’ drive from Ellery’s house...and, of course, of staying with him.

He pushed the thought back out of his mind, but it continued to resurface through a hot apple pie and ice cream dessert, and then coffee and brandy as the dinner wound down. Does this mean he had just agreed to move to Tourmaline and move in with Ellery? He felt slightly dizzy, and told himself it was the brandy and the heavy meal.

When Ellery finally pushed his chair back, offering his excuses for not being able to stay longer, Colson was edgy and anxious to go. “It was a wonderful meal, Edna,” he said. “And thank you for everythin, sir.” He borrowed a pencil and paper from Ellery, wrote down the name and phone number Wes needed to get in touch with Emil Anderson for his work reference.

“We’ll be followin up on this next Sunday night dinner, make sure yer here at ...what, Edna, six or so? No make it five, I want to show you the stock we are movin so you know the quality we prepare an sell. Give you an idea what kinda ranchin we do.”

“I’ll be here sir.”

“You can cut out the sir, an call me Wes like Ellery does. Pleases the pants off me but it’s really a little too polite for the likes a me.”

“You can say that again Wesley,” Edna chimed in, now clearing the plates off the table. “You boys have a nice evening now.”

Colson and Ellery were both silent as they got into Ellery’s borrowed cruiser and he turned around in the front yard. Colson got a glimpse of the yard, barn and neat paddock as the headlights swept over them, wondering what it would be like to work at such a modern, well financed ranch, his emotions full.

They drove home without exchanging words, unusual for them, passing another cigar between them, and as they reapproached the town, Colson finally could not hold in any longer.

“He offered me a job here.”

“Yep. The other day he took me aside an asked me what I knew a yer ranchin experience, so I already knew he had wheels turnin. He’s been missin his chief trainer now for couple a months an was about givin up hope.”

“I don’t understand, Ellery. How come he couldn’t find no one?”

“This ain’t big horse ranch country, Colson. He’s a gentleman rancher tryin ta run that place part time, an that means the people come ta work for him have got ta do a whole lot more than on a full time ranch with the owner there everyday. It’s harder work than most ranch stiffs are used ta, an Wes is mighty picky, bein the Sheriff an all. Maybe this ain’t true a you or the people you are used ta workin with, but ranch hands aren’t the best behaved, most moral upstandin folks, and most of em got serious alcohol problems or suchlike. Which is why he made a more discreet inquiry about you before he even thought about it. There, now you know we was schemin behind yer back.”

“You think it’d be good?”

“Colson, I’ve worked for the man fer fifteen years. He hand picked me outta college for Chrissakes. He’s ...he’s like my daddy, if my daddy hadn’t up an died, that is. He is picky, he got high standards, an he likes people who keep their mouth shut an don’t go out gettin blasted every night in town an forgettin ta show up ta work the next day. He already knows you ain’t like that, an the rest of what he wants ta know he’ll find out from the last ranch ya worked at. So that’s that.”

“Sure enough,” Colson said, his mind still whirling. Ellery pulled the cruiser into the driveway and shut off the key.

“But that ain’t the big thing on yer mind, is it, sweetheart?”

“Nope.” Colson looked down at his hands.

“It’s about us.”

“Yup.”

“Then let’s go in an have about six scotches an then we’ll talk about it, okay?”

Colson nodded, a smile on his face, and knew that Ellery understood just how frightened he was of the choices he was about to make.





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